Fresh and smoked fish from the Akiwenzie family is a highly sought after item at local farmer’s markets. Chefs and home cooks alike clamor for the stuff and itÂ always sells out before the end of the day.
Andrew and Natasha Akiwenzie live on Georgian Bay with their two sons.
The family has been through hell in the past year and a half, almost losing their livelihood and the fishing business they’ve put so much work into.
A health inspector shut down their small processing facility giving them no way to sell their fish to bring in an income to make the proper upgrades. Because they are located on a reservation no bank would give them a loan. They had no money for the needed renovations and no way to get money to make the renovations.
Despite their seeminly hopeless situation they have been able to get a lot of the work completed. Thanks in part to the generosity of Toronto’s food and wine community pulling together for a fundraiser at Palais Royale last fall, equipment donated by Chef Jamie Kennedy and the sweat of many friends, family members and even a few strangers.
One stranger to the family learned of their situation and decided to help. Fenwick Bonnell, of acclaimed design firm, Powell & Bonnell, is a man who knows how to get things done. After hearing of the Akiwenzie’s need for ceramic tile for their floor, at an estimated cost of $2500.00, he made a few phone calls and ended up speaking with Sylvia Benchimol at Stone Tile International. Sylvia was able to donate the stone needed and the Akiwenzie’s finally got their floor finished. Said Sylvia, “Life is not just about working and making money, is it? Every little action helps in healing the world.”
Volunteers, like Charles HazellÂ from Taylor Hazell Architects Ltd. and RichardÂ Murray, of First Choice MasonryÂ from London were instrumental in the project. CharlesÂ had the drawings of the plant done up and also gave much needed advice, while Richard supplied and helped lay the brick for the smokers. He also helpedÂ pour the pad for the smoke shed.
“That was a hot, dirty and exhausting job to do by hand.” Natasha recalls. “Our customers and friends helped us a great deal. Â They sent money to us when we had nothing, and still a long way to go before we could even consider fishing again.”
The work is ongoing, but there is finally an end in sight. “We still need to finish the smokers. The smoke shed that is separate from the house has to have hydro and water put in it. We need to put down cement or aphalt in front of the plant and smoke house to cut down on the dust or dirt and have any water slope away from the building.” recounts Natasha.
She estimates that they will have spent $18000.00 when all is said and done. That’s a lot of money when you consider that a piece of smoked fish, which must be caught, cleaned, fileted, brined & smoked during a two day process, then driven to Toronto to sell for only $5-$7.
In a time when you can buy a fast food meal for much less than that, we’d do well to remember where our real food comes from and the efforts required to get it into our kitchens.
Olympic athletes won’t tell you this, but common sense will – real food wins gold medals not Mcnuggets.