‘You won’t find this anywhere else’: Indigenous cafe brings First Nations soul food to Port Alberni

'You won't find this anywhere else': Indigenous cafe brings First Nations soul food to Port Alberni

Stirring up bubbling homemade chowder that her grandma taught her to make on Ahousaht brought chef Brandee “Bear” Robinson a big smile in Port Alberni’s Kuu-Us Cafe Thursday.

“I think the best compliment I’ve gotten so far is: ‘I feel like grandma just cooked me dinner.’ And that’s it, that’s what we’re going for here,” said Robinson.

Each item on Kuu-us’ menu, from elk bites to salmon hash to wild game chili, is cooked from scratch and is a memory trip back to the chef’s childhood on Ahousaht, north of Tofino.

The Port Alberni woman helped create the cafe’s menu to pay tribute to the recipes cooked in Indigenous homes and villages and share the staples of crowded, family-filled tables throughout the West Coast.

Port Alberni resident and artist Cecil Dawson told CHEK News that sitting down in the cafe Thursday brought back warm memories of his family.

“The feeling in here and the noise and the chatter, it reminds me of when we were all together at home,” said Dawson.

“You walk in the door, you sit down and you feel like you’re already at home,” said the Kuu-us Cafe’s manager, Todd Flaro.

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The Kuu-us Cafe is pictured. (CHEK News)

The cafe on Port Alberni’s Gertrude Street is a one of a kind, Indigenous-owned and staffed venture to benefit the non-profit indigenous Kuu-us Crisis Line that offers a phone line and outreach to those struggling.

“We’re just so pleased, we’re amazed. We’re so thankful,” said the Kuu-us Crisis Line Society’s board chair, Andrea Amos-Baker.

“You won’t find this anywhere else. You won’t. It’s unique and I hope people will come and check it out,” said Port Alberni resident Helma Swinkels.

So far, business has been brisk since the cafe opened on Jan. 15, and according to Flaro, Robinson’s Potlatch chowder has sold out every day since.

“I’m pretty proud of that. Everyday I taste it and go, ‘I created that,'” said Robinson.

“It was very good. We are so glad we came here. Awesome,” said Port Alberni resident Donna Dahlen.

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