As tends to be the case, his grandmothers made it look easy.
Paul Natrall grew up eating bannock, so it wasn’t until he was a little older that he noticed his grandmothers’ busy – yet somehow effortless – work in the kitchen.
“I was pretty young. I would say, before I was 10 when I first started noticing what my grandmothers were doing and what we were having,” Natrall, now 34, tells the North Shore News.
They would make bannock and a variety of other Indigenous fare by hand, with one grandmother specializing in frying the bread while the other opted to bake it. Natrall says his personal preference was for the baked variety, but it wasn’t until he was in culinary school in the late 2000s that he noted how challenging the intricacies of cooking could be in general.
“I watched my grandmothers do it quite a bit and said, ‘It doesn’t look too hard to do, right?’ I tried it out but it wasn’t successful,” he says with a laugh. “It was quite the epic fail.”
How far he’s come.
Natrall recently opened Mr. Bannock, which is likely the first Indigenous food truck in Vancouver. “It’s huge for Indigenous people,” the chef and Squamish Nation member notes.
Mr. Bannock will serve everything from hot plates of bannock calzones and bannock waffles, to veggie bowls made with fresh ingredients.
It took a while to get to this point, but it’s been worth it, he says, adding that his goal is to share Indigenous cuisine – namely Indigenous cuisine from local and regional First Nations – with as many people as possible.
“Being on the West Coast here and being able to showcase our food here on the West Coast – everywhere I went people liked it and enjoyed it. I just want to continue doing that,” he says.
A couple years back, before he had his mobile food truck, Natrall started PR Bannock Factory and would sling his bannock products and treats wherever he could, such as the Ambleside Artisan Farmers’ Market.
“That’s the main one that I started up in,” he says about his summer days spent introducing people to bannock and Indigenous food at the West Vancouver market. “It was pretty awesome. I was lucky a lot of people enjoyed it. That’s where I started.”
He goes on: “And then the next summer I started doing pop-up kitchens, so I was renting equipment out and a handwashing station, and then I was able to do hot food. The biggest one we did last summer was National Aboriginal Day and did 2,100 Indian tacos, and we did that in just over two hours.”
With momentum and inspiration on his side, Natrall says he’s looking forward to getting out there with his Mr. Bannock food truck, adding that it’s especially meaningful for him to be able to carry on his family’s legacy of cooking, citing his grandmothers, his great-grandfather, who was a chef, and his kids who have taken a keen interest in their ancestral food. “It’s huge. There’s something that we’re building upon,” he says.
Mr. Bannock is currently stationed on Squamish Nation territory, with plans to set up shop wherever hunger strikes.
Visit mrbannock.com for food truck times, locations, and updates.