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The Journey of the Four Food Chiefs

Okanagan-based photographer, David McIlvride, documented the Journey of the Four Food Chiefs, a food event that was part of the Osoyoos Oyster Festival.

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The spring sun was beaming through the car windows, as my wife and I, along with our two dogs, Caramel and Cupcake, headed south of Kelowna, BC to Osoyoos. In this town of just over 5,000 residents, a few miles north of the US border, sits Spirit Ridge, a resort that is part of the Unbound Collection, a select group of hotels and resorts that are part of the World of Hyatt.

The luxury resort, nestled within the gently sloping vineyards of Nk’Mip Cellars was hosting a special event – “Journey of the Four Food Chiefs.

The “Journey of the Four Food Chiefs” was a signature event of the Osoyoos Oyster Festival and Chef Murray McDonald was designing a menu based on the Four Food Chiefs, a nod to the resort’s Indigenous heritage.

The Four Food Chiefs: Skimxist Black Bear (chief of animals, representing self-sacrifice, leadership, giving), Ntytikxw Chinook Salmon (water creatures, perseverance, hard work), Speetlum Bitterroot (plants below the round, relationships to the land) and Seeya Saskatoon Berry (plants above the ground, growth, strength, community) are legendary.

Before the event opened to the public, pastry chef Tammy Maki, performed a smudging ceremony with both the kitchen and the front of house staff. She approached each person, holding a small container, with smoke drifting up against the bright sun. I watched as the smoke, which heals the mind, heart and body, was wafted over each person, either by their hand or with a feather, held by Chef Maki. The person being smudged pulled the smoke to them and gently inhaled. With her Indigenous background, Chef Maki, explained that it is believed that our negative thoughts and feelings are absorbed by the ashes.

It was a special moment signifying the start of restaurant service. I’ve visited many of the restaurants in the Okanagan Valley and this smudging ceremony before service was the first I’ve experienced.