Sudbury-based Indigenous pastry chef captures national entrepreneur award

Monday, March 4th, 2024 12:47pm


Image Caption

Chef Tammy Maki. Photo courtesy of Simon Ratcliffe/ITAC.


“This entire conference was transformative for me on a personal level. Hopefully I can translate that into the business level as well.” —Chef Tammy Maki
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chef Tammy Maki finally feels that she belongs.

Maki, a child of the Sixties Scoop and member of White Bear First Nations in Saskatchewan, has spent the majority of her life in Sudbury, Ont.

Maki opened Raven Rising, a chocolate shop that specializes in global Indigenous chocolates and pastries, in the northern Ontario city in March 2018.

Though she has captured various accolades in the past, Maki is overwhelmed with her latest achievement.

She was selected as the Extraordinary Female Entrepreneur at the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) awards ceremony held Feb. 28 in Ottawa. The ceremony was part of the three-day International Indigenous Tourism Conference.

The Extraordinary Female Entrepreneur award recognizes an empowered and strong Indigenous female entrepreneur within the tourism industry in Canada. It is also awarded to an individual who demonstrates a commitment to uplifting other women in her industry, embodying leadership within her business and/or community.

“I’m still absolutely blown away that I won,” Maki said a couple of days after her victory. “It’s something that wasn’t on my radar at all.”

Maki said the ITAC accolade is the most significant one she has received.

“My business has won some awards since we started,” she said. “I’ve been absolutely blown away by those awards. But to win something through ITAC, for me as a Sixties Scoop, it gives me more of a sense of, I guess, community.

“I’m in Sudbury. I’m far away from where my band is and where my blood family and my relations are. I’ve never had that sense of community.”

Maki attended the Ottawa conference knowing she was one of three finalists in her award category. ITAC also handed out eight other national awards.

“Right up until the moment I saw my face come up on the screen, I believed that somebody else was going to win it,” Maki said.

Maki had graduated from a baking and pastry arts program (that is no longer offered) through Cambrian College in Sudbury. She left a previous trade to enrol in the program.

“And it wasn’t a step up,” Maki said. “But you only have one life. And you can only do so much of what people expect from you before you have to find your own passion. Baking and the artistry of baking has always been something that I’ve been involved in since I was itty-bitty, regardless of what I was doing to make money.”

Upon graduation she was offered a position in 2012 at a restaurant located inside the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff, Alta.

She spent the next several years working various pastry jobs at locations throughout western Canada before moving back to Sudbury to open her shop.

Raven Rising is primarily an e-commerce business and Maki finds herself selling her chocolates to clients across Canada.

She does open up her store just one day a week, however, for walk-in clients.

Though she has garnered plenty of praise in recent years, Maki said attending last week’s Ottawa conference was a bit of an eyeopener.

“I guess you don’t really realize what you do and who you impact until you’re out at an event like this,” she said. “And this entire conference was transformative for me on a personal level. Hopefully I can translate that into the business level as well.”

Maki sources Indigenous ingredients to put into her chocolates from not only across Canada but around the world.

“So, there’s no one place I get them from,” she said. “I will say it is very difficult ensuring that the ingredients that you source come from Indigenous people. There are a lot of companies that just have ingredients. That is all fine and good because we need ingredients.”

Maki said her inventory of ingredients comes from as far away as Australia.

“I have sourced from Australia and they have a few of my very favourite products,” she said. “I found a company that actually sources directly from the Aboriginal communities and supports Aboriginal communities with purchases. So that’s who I order from.”

Maki also said she does a fair bit of background research on those she sources ingredients from. Having contacts around the globe assists her with this work.

“Luckily I know some people in a lot of different countries,” she said.

One of her favourite ingredients she utilizes in her chocolates is pepperberry from Australia.

“We have black pepper and pink pepper and white pepper,” Maki said. “I kind of expected pepperberry to be very, very similar. And I was just completely wrong. It’s spicy and it’s a cinnamony finish and it’s just simply beautiful.”

For now, Maki only ships her products to clients in Canada. She’s hoping that might change one day.

“I’m not in the export market yet,” she said. “The bonbons that I make have a very short shelf life. It doesn’t mean they go bad during that six-week to two-months period. It’s just that it starts to lose its flavours. I am looking at export markets, but I have to think in a different way so that’s a little bit in the future.”

Maki said she is looking to make additional changes with Raven Rising.

“The sky is the limit,” she said. “I don’t think like a normal person. I never have. So, I think that’s why I’ve been raging against the machine for so long. I have an idea and from that there’s 50 other ideas. From those there’s 1,000 ideas. And it just goes and goes.”