Chef Ian Gladue’s journey isn’t just about food – it’s about reclaiming a vital part of Indigenous culture and sharing it with the world.

From a childhood spent playing “restaurant” to creating Mitsoh, Gladue is on a mission to make Indigenous cuisine a celebrated part of Canada’s culinary identity.

Photo Credit: Noela Steinhauer

Indigenous Food Stories: Chef Ian Gladue’s Mitsoh Revives the Pemmican Tradition

Hailing from Wabasca’s Bigstone Cree Nation in Treaty 8 Territory, Chef Ian Gladue’s food journey began as a child when he played “restaurant” with his siblings, complete with his own menus. He graduated to preparing stir fries and sub sandwiches for his family and eventually began working in a kitchen at Maskwacis (then Hobbema), near Edmonton, where he really learned to navigate a full-scale commercial kitchen. While Gladue dealt with hardships including addiction, homelessness and crime as a teenager, he always found his way back to food. Even when he was working in the oil fields of Northern Alberta, he thought of his and his mother’s shared passion for traditional Indigenous food and how he might make a living at it while being able to spend more time with his growing family.

Following a significant workplace injury that altered the course of his life, Gladue transitioned away from the oil and gas industry and relocated to Edmonton to pursue his long-held aspirations. Overcoming obstacle after obstacle (including systemic racism, licensing hurdles, funding barriers and others) Gladue opened his first food cart selling bannock and Indian tacos in Edmonton and at powwows. Finding a great demand for his food, Gladue was able to upgrade his cart to a full-on food truck and then opened a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, Native Delights, in Edmonton.

With two restaurants, a catering business and public engagement through the food truck, Gladue was looking for ways to have a broader impact, saying he wanted to make Indigenous food a bigger part of the conversation about Canada’s national cuisine. One of his products, pânsâwân, enabled him to do that. Pânsâwân, or “thin-sliced meat” in English, being one of the first foods of North America, was traditionally prepared from the lean meat of large game like bison, elk, caribou, or moose. The meat was cut in thin slices and dried over smouldering coals until it was naturally preserved. Pânsâwân is made into the better-known “pimîhkân” (pemmican in English) by pounding the dried pânsâwân meat into a powder using stones and combining it with rendered animal fat and harvested berries. This superfood is dense in energy and nutrients and can last indefinitely without any artificial preservatives.

Gladue’s mother, Jacqueline Masazumi (a Dene woman from Fort Good Hope, NWT) taught him and his wife Rondell Gladue to make pânsâwân and the couple scaled it up to create Mitsoh in 2018. With a mission to restore, preserve and share the beauty of North American Indigenous cultural foods with the world, Mitsoh has the support of elders in the community after presentation through traditional protocol and ceremony. Mitsoh (meaning “eat” in Nehiyaw (which is the word for the Cree language in English)), offers a full line of dried meat and pemmican in flavours like blueberry and maple Saskatoon berry in stores across the country including Community Natural Foods, Amaranth Market and various Sobeys, Safeway and Save-On Foods stores.

The team recently introduced a limited-edition Strawberry flavour, available online, at the Canadian Health Food Association trade show and conference, where they took home the Peoples’ Choice Award.

Visit Mitsoh for more information.