Vancouver-based restaurant captures national Indigenous culinary tourism award

Monday, March 4th, 2024 6:27pm


Image Caption

Inez Cook, owner of Salmon n’ Bannock, with a photo of one of the delicious meals served at the Vancouver restaurant.


“I think it’s probably because of reconciliation. I think people are now supporting Indigenous businesses.” —Inez Cook, owner of Salmon n’ Bannock
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It’s a good thing that perseverance is one of Inez Cook’s traits.

Cook, a former flight attendant who retired last year after more than three decades in the business, opted to become a restaurant owner back in 2010.

Cook, a member of Nuxalk Nation in British Columbia, opened Salmon n’ Bannock shortly after the 2010 Winter Olympics began in Vancouver. The restaurant is on West Broadway, one of Vancouver’s best-known streets.

“The Olympics were coming and it was a good time to do it,” Cook said. “I’ve lived all over the world and met all the cultures.”

But there was one major problem. Visitors from around the globe who were taking in the Vancouver Olympics did not flock to Cook’s restaurant.

That’s because while the world’s greatest sporting spectacle was happening nearby, the roads leading to Salmon n’ Bannock were blocked off for Olympic festivities.

“Nobody came,” Cook said, adding business was also slow for several years after the restaurant opened.

But then word started getting out about the restaurant’s offerings. In recent years it has consistently made the list of Trip Advisor’s Top 10 restaurants in Vancouver.

“I think it’s probably because of reconciliation,” Cook said of Salmon n’ Bannock’s popularity now. “I think people are now supporting Indigenous businesses.”

Cook’s restaurant was recognized with a prestigious award this past week.

Salmon n’ Bannock captured the Indigenous Culinary Tourism Award at a ceremony held on Feb. 28 in Ottawa during the International Indigenous Tourism Conference.  

The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) hosted the international conference. ITAC officials announced winners in nine categories at the awards ceremony.

“It’s just amazing to be recognized on a national scale,” Cook said.

The award recognizes a business or individual in the Indigenous culinary industry in Canada.

Nominations are open to chefs, restaurants, wineries, breweries, culinary events and farms/markets.

Salmon n’ Bannock is the only Indigenous restaurant in Vancouver, and because business is so brisk, Cook opened a second restaurant last year.

This restaurant, titled Salmon n’ Bannock On the Fly, is located at the Vancouver International Airport. It is the first Indigenous restaurant located in a Canadian airport.

“It’s big and showing that Indigenous culinary is really growing,” Cook said of her award win.

On the Salmon n’ Bannock website it says restaurant officials are keen to welcome guests so they can showcase their heritage and pride.

“In the spirit of First Nations’ traditions, our intention is to provide a gathering place where the focus is on the people and the food,” the website reads.

Appetizers at the restaurant include Mushrooms on Toasted Bannock, which features sautéed mushrooms with melted brie, sage blueberries and bison gravy, and Pemmican Mousse, which consists of smoked and dried bison mixed with cream cheese and sage-infused blueberries.

Main courses include Smoked Sablefish, which is smoked with white buffalo sage and served with Haudenosaunee corn polenta and roasted beets, and Fiss n’ Rice, which is wild sockeye served on a bed of Ojibwe wild rice with a brown butter sauce.

Due to work and family commitments, Cook was unable to travel to the nation’s capital last week for the awards ceremony. 

Mary Point, the director of Indigenous relations for the Vancouver International Airport, accepted Cook’s award on her behalf.

And it didn’t take long for news of her victory to reach Cook.

“My phone blew up,” Cook said. “Everybody was calling me and screaming.”
Cook wants it to be clear that she is the owner of the two restaurants. She is not a chef. And she is quick to divert praise to others. She has a team of 30 who help operate her two locations.

“My teams work super hard,” she said. “And they deserve to be recognized.”

Now that she’s captured a prestigious ITAC award, Cook was asked what her future restaurant plans are.

“We just keep doing what we’re doing,” she said.