Banff Jasper Collection

There is nothing quite like the thrill of witnessing a journey come full circle.

At Pursuit, we enjoy front row seats to these moments every day, as our guests travel from around the world to visit our iconic and unforgettable attractions. They experience wonder and amazement, all while checking a cherished item off their bucket list. We also get to witness full circle moments in the most serendipitous places.

Enter: Cooks with Stones

Cooks with Stones (CWS) is a Stoney Nakoda program that Pursuit became a part of three years ago. This 12-week holistic initiative, led entirely by the Stoney Nakoda Nations and funded by the Further Education Society of Alberta (FESA), is designed to empower Indigenous youth, preparing them for immersive work experiences in the tourism and hospitality industry by building their culinary abilities, literacy, essential skills and confidence.

Pursuit is an enthusiastic, supportive and proud employer partner, offering a seven-week rotating internship to CWS participants. During this transformative period, participants immerse themselves in Pursuit’s culinary world, working side by side with teams throughout our Banff Jasper Collection. They learn the ins and outs of the food program, kitchen safety and all the ingredients they need to thrive in future careers.

An Opportunity of a Lifetime

Fast forward to June 2023. CWS received an invitation from Canada’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ralph Goodale, to showcase the program at the Canada Day celebration in London.

A group of young chefs pose under a tent with a sign that says "Dig Insight & Cooks with Stones"

This prestigious honor presented an opportunity for participants to showcase their culinary traditions, ancestral techniques and treasured recipes.

“Participants worked with Dean Herkert, a Métis chef from Winnipeg, and created two dishes that they served specifically to Canada House, which is basically a Canadian embassy in the UK, right across from Trafalgar Square,” said Scott Hergott, Pursuit’s executive chef for Banff properties, who traveled to London to support participants.

Throughout the day’s festivities, around 30,000 visitors passed through the square, offering unprecedented exposure for the participants and the CWS program as a whole.

A young chef holds a pastry in an commercial kitchen

Cooks with Stones participant Dillon Bearspaw completes a "Wild Rice" dessert at the Canada House Kitchen.

A group pose at at a table at the Further Educational Society event.

(From left to right) Scott Hergott, Wyanne Smallboy-Wesley, Dana Crawler and Dean Herkert at the Canada House VIP reception.

The impact of the visit was tangible, highlighting the power of professional networking — forging connections between program participants, industry professionals and a diverse international audience.

For a former program participant, the journey came full circle when a by-chance reconnection with Hergott in London led to a career opportunity back in the Rockies. This unexpected encounter resulted in a permanent job offer, providing a remarkable chance to further refine their skills and share their rich Indigenous culinary heritage with Pursuit’s local and global guests.

The Next Chapter

As summer continues to heat up, Pursuit's Banff Jasper team is thrilled to help kick off Cooks with Stones for another year on July 17, 2023. Ten passionate individuals will embark on a culinary adventure like no other.

“The goal this year is to have at least three of these students become part of Pursuit and continue to work with us in our kitchens” said Hergott, sharing his ambitions for the 2023 program.

Plates of small food samples with tiny Canadian flag toothpicks.

"Wild Rice" dessert (left) and maple-smoked venison (right), rubbed with sage, salt, pepper and chaga tea. Served with wild rice, smoked corn and carrots — a colourful reflection of the “Three Sisters” crops.

This year, participants will also work with Indigenous celebrity chef Shane Chartrand. Chartrand will share land-based learnings, traditional cooking techniques — such as meat smoking — and will lead participants in medicine harvesting and berry picking.

As we embark on this next chapter with CWS, we continue to celebrate the creativity, resilience and cultural legacy of Indigenous communities, all while building bridges through the universal language of food.

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