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Lakefield chef helps out in Attawapiskat

by Ben Clarke

A Lakefield chef is working overtime after volunteering to help those affected by the recent Attawapiskat First Nation housing fire.

Brian Henry, a Lakefield-based chef, is in Kapuskasing helping with the meal planning and preparation for about 80 people who have been evacuated from Attawapiskat after a fire damaged housing trailers Nov. 21.

Henry was in Kapuskasing, a town about 165 kilometres northwest of Timmins, Ont., earlier this month for consulting work with a restaurant on menu development and recipe tasting.

When that restaurant, O’Briens Classic Grill, got the call to provide the meal preparation for the evacuees, the owner called Henry to lend a hand.

Henry has been focusing on basic food safety, sanitation needs and nutritional requirements.

“The logistics of the situation having to feed 80 people three meals a day for… anywhere from six weeks to four months – you can understand how challenging that can be,” he said.

“You want to make sure their food is fresh and there’s rotation through the menu. We don’t want to have menu fatigue.”

Attawapiskat First Nation, a community of about 1,800 people, is located in northern Ontario near the mouth of Attawapiskat River at James Bay.

The Nov. 21 fire displaced 74 people, according to a Attawapiskat press release.

The Attawapiskat council declared a state of emergency Nov. 22 and the community completed two evacuation flights Nov. 23 to take 65 of the affected residents to Kapuskasing.

“These people lost their homes. There’s already a bit of an emotional situation. They’ve been removed from their community and put in another one,” Henry said.

Henry will have the opportunity to learn from a couple of ladies who are going to show him and some of the O’Briens employees how to prepare a First Nation recipe for bread and bannock, as the menu is focusing on home-style cooking.

Henry expects to be in Kapuskasking for eight days then he’ll return to Lakefield for 10 days before heading back up to Kapuskasing for another eight-day stint.

“It’s quite an eye-opening experience,” Henry said.

“We’re in a remote area. There is a certain ruggedness to this part of the country. The people of the area is what I find make it so beautiful.”

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