meet our guests:
In 2023, we were joined by some very special guests at our inaugural Festival.
Each guest brought a unique perspective and fresh take on what Canadian food and drink is all about. We shared our NWT flavours with them and magic ensued!
Chef Matt Dean Pettit
From his first job as a busboy at the young age of 13 to line cook at 14, Matt's passion for the food industry started early. Matt's love for cooking comes from his mother, his passion has spanned over 20 years of experience in hospitality.
Known for his exuberant energy and dynamic personality, Matt's passion for food is highlighted in his many ventures including his critically acclaimed Best- Selling cookbook, "The Great Lobster Cookbook" published by Random House, which was followed up by "The Great Shellfish Cookbook" in 2018.
He is also the force behind the ghost kitchen concept "Coast by MDP", the handcrafted tableware company Spirit Wares, online grocery program- Salt Gourmet Foods and the organic, functional mushroom brand PowerPlant Superfoods! In early 2023, Matt opened Trinity Market a very unique concept bringing together a "Snack + Wine Bar, Bottle Shop and Market".
If this isn't enough you can catch Matt on Dine and Dash Radio.
Matt regularly appears on National TV as a food expert on The Social, Cityline and Your Morning!
He is the Toronto Blue Jay's biggest fan and can be found at any sporting event that comes through the city.
Matt's enthusiasm is infectious! He puts 110% into everything that he does. Whether it is grilling in the backyard, creating something healthy to fuel his busy days or his expertise with seafood- there is nothing that he can't make delicious!
Chef Matt's cookbook will be available for purchase at the Yellowknife Book Cellar!
Mixologist, Bar and Beverage Director, Entrepreneur and Product Developer, Chris Anderson brings 20 years of passion and experience from the Hospitality Industry across Canada.
He currently serves as the Eastern Bar and Beverage Director, out of Toronto, for Freehouse Collective, with 6 venues and over 200 staff under his oversight. He is a partner and board member of Craft 360, a Canadian holding company out of Toronto, which owns Lost Craft Beer, High Park Brewery, Dejado Tequila and Local Spirit Distilling Co and has had the privilege to travel the world to work with amazing global brands such as Jameson Whisky, Patron Tequila and Jack Daniels.
He has a hyper-focus and passion for education and empowering the next generation of hospitality professionals. He strives to help put Canada on the map as a global heavyweight in the hospitality, restaurant and bar industry.
Chef michael hunter
Growing up just outside of Erin, Ontario and then moving to a horse farm in Inglewood as a child, Chef Michael Hunter, began his path towards becoming a chef at the age of 13 and fell in love with the restaurant industry and food. But it wasn't until he was 18 that he had his first experience with hunting and eating wild game, and it was something that changed his perception of food forever.
"I went out turkey hunting with my friends and the first morning we had a big show, eight turkeys," he said. "We only had tags for two so we harvested them, and I couldn't believe the difference in flavour between wild meat and the turkey I ate on holidays." Michael is an Honours graduate of the Humber College Apprenticeship Program, he obtained his Red Seal and has worked for some of Canada's top chefs and kitchens.
In 2015 Michael and Jody Shapiro opened Antler and have since had numerous accolades from the top new restaurant lists in Toronto Life, Air Canada en route magazine, Eater magazine, Dine magazine and Post City magazine.
Hunter is a firm believer that anyone and everyone should have the option to access truly wild, organic meat in a sustainable way. At Antler, they serve their guests game with regularly foraged indigenous Ontario herbs and edible flowers, along with annual leek picks and one-off mushroom gathering trips. This is the way Michael loves to eat and his guests notice the difference.
Michael has been invited to cook around the world in culinary festivals in the United States, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Russia and Brazil.
When he isn't in the restaurant Michael and his family enjoy being in the wilderness. "I am always in the woods, I love the outdoors. There is just something about finding your own ingredients as a chef. It is a fulfilling, primal thing for me," he said. "It has become a huge part of my life."
Chef Michael's first cookbook "The Hunter Chef" hit stores at the beginning of October 2020!
Chef Michael's cookbook will be available for purchase at the Yellowknife Book Cellar!
Jenni Lessard is a chef and culinary consultant based in the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan, on Treaty Four Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.
As a proud citizen of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan and the Interim Executive Director of the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations (ICAN), one of her greatest strengths is connecting people through food!
Raised in the boreal forest in Northern Saskatchewan, Jenni’s first kitchen adventures involved the berries and plant nations that surrounded her family’s home. At age 14, she and two friends started a hamburger stand at the local airport and her commercial cooking career “took off”. From her local and Métis foods based restaurant, New Ground Cafe’, to her catering business, Chef Jenni Cuisine, she grew a reputation for innovative dishes and warm hearted storytelling.
Jenni developed and delivers the culinary portion of the award winning Han Wi Dinner series at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where she became the first female executive chef in 2019. With her new business, Inspired by Nature Culinary Consulting, Jenni produces menus, recipes and immersive culinary experiences. Her clients include health regions, schools, tourism businesses, restaurants, heritage sites, agricultural organizations, ingredient companies and First Nations and Métis communities.
Jenni is a judge on Season 5 of Fire Masters on Food Network Canada and was Resident Chef at the National Arts Centre September to November 2022. Tom Hanks typed her a thank you letter after receiving a copy of her hand-typed cookbook, Season!
Jenni is passionate about uplifting those just starting out in the culinary world, and she jumps at every chance to bring new cooks along on her journeys, encouraging them to persevere through the challenges a culinary career can bring.
When she’s not on the road or in the kitchen, you’ll find Jenni berry picking, sometimes with a headlamp to extend the daylight!
@chefjenni on Instagram
chef jenni lessard
Phoenix Isnana (they/them) is a Saulteaux-Dakota Indigenous youth that grew up in Regina, SK. They are a 2023 graduate of Scott Collegiate. At Scott, they enrolled in the Food Tourism and Hospitality Pathway where they discovered how interesting the industry can be.
Over the last three years, Phoenix has been handed many industry opportunities that they graciously accepted including attending the International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC2023) in Winnipeg where they worked alongside 11 chefs from all across Turtle Island for the opening reception “A Taste of Turtle Island”, helping organize, plan and execute a meal for Supper in the Orchard, and helping the last few caterings of the school year.
Phoenix has also built their own network of industry professionals with all the people they met throughout their high school career. With all the knowledge and friendship acquired, Phoenix is eager to continue her culinary journey alongside Chef Jennie Lessard at the NWT Culinary Festival.
Linda Garson is the creator of Vine & Dine and Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Alberta food and beverage magazine 'Culinaire'. She has earned a reputation as one of Calgary’s prime wine experts, educators, and influencers, speaking at functions all over the city as well as writing about wine and food.
Linda has worked with Chateaux in France, wineries in Romania, vineyards in Italy, Germany, Australia, and South Africa, Pisco producers in Chile, Vodka producers in Sweden, distilleries in the UK, cocktail manufacturers in Singapore, RTD manufacturers in Montreal and many more, acquiring an extensive knowledge of wine and the production of other alcoholic beverages. She is now coming to Yellowknife to join us for our inaugural Culinary Festival!
In September 2007, Linda became the CBC’s food and wine pairing expert with a regular food and wine segment on CBC Radio’s ‘Homestretch’. October 2008 saw the first televised food and wine pairing segments from Linda’s kitchen, cooking topical dishes and pairing them with wine for CBC TV province-wide.
You'll see Linda as a judge and host for all 24 episodes of Mixology Masters, airing now on Tubi, and on Global Television at weekends where she'll often drop by to talk about food, beverages, and restaurants in Calgary. Watch Mixology Masters here