Art Napoleon Interview: Celebrating Season 3 of Moosemeat & Marmalade

Written For: Edible Canada

How often do you get to peer over the shoulder of an indigenous Canadian hunter and bush cook as he tracks, traps and prepares a gourmet meal on an open fire?

That is just a small piece of what you can expect from the 3rd Season of the Leo-nominated documentary series Moosemeat & Marmalade – which premiered on January 18th on APTN (check your local listings for showtimes). To celebrate the show entering its 3rd season, we interviewed Art Napoleon and grabbed a recipe from co-host and British chef, Dan Hayes, to share with you.

The show’s cameras follow Art and Dan as they travel across Canada and beyond to explore how different cultures relate to food, as well as the present and future issues unique to each of them of security and supply.

But Napoleon – producer and rawest half of the show’s title – is much more than just a seasoned outdoorsman, as I discovered during our interview. He snuck into a boardroom at his production office to chat with me about his journey. “Warm” and “sincere” are the first words that come to mind when I hear his voice.

“I was making a living and paying a mortgage as a musician before TV,” he says, “but I was also entertaining in schools and developed a kids show with BC ArtStarts. Along the way I became a consultant for cultural revitalization, native engagement and workshop delivery. I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades.”

Growing up in the foothills of the Rockies, on the Cree reserve shores of Moberly Lake, Napoleon was steeped in the indigenous methods of hunting, cooking and camping, before moving to Victoria to get his MA degree and begin a career in television.

“Hunting was always there, cooking was always there. I just wasn’t public with that. It was a real passion for me,” he adds. “Then I got into TV when I was in Victoria and one thing lead to another. I was able to mix my passions for television, performing and adventure.”

Art tells me a little about where he learned his skills of hunting and cooking outdoors:

Oh, I was completely inculturated. My grandpa was an old school hunter – meaning he would spiritually connect with the animals. We hunted the old way, sometimes hiking into the backwoods on foot for days at a time. If he had a kill he’d have to load the packhorses and haul the meat out. My grandmother and the kids would break it into smaller pieces.

In the summer we’d live out there for weeks at a time. We picked berries and had a full-time thing preparing for the winter and just following the seasons.

But when you’re travelling with a film crew on a humble budget, as Art explains, the process looks quite a bit different.

We don’t have the luxury of spending a week trying to get one animal,” he says, “We get 3 hours. So we line up local guides ahead of time to scout these places, do some tracking and figure out what our best chances are in their territory to get something.

If we don’t succeed, then we don’t succeed. That’s the reality of hunting. Habitat is dwindling and numbers of certain game are also dwindling. We espouse a philosophy of low impact and there’s a spiritual aspect to the hunts that I’m leading. We don’t use trophies. We show respect.

This crucial, refreshing thread of authenticity is woven into the fabric of the program, including the hosts themselves.

“We get a lot of feedback on our chemistry,” Art remarks. “We’re kind of an offbeat couple. I think it works for the show. The banter you see is real. We’re not scripted. We have a story outline, we know what were going to shoot next, and the order, but nobody writes our lives. And the interviews are all off the cuff.”

“We can banter and be loggerheads, we can disagree a lot, but still not be disconnected. [We] can move on. If there’s a message for reconciliation, it’s not to give up.”

When asked what he hopes viewers will get from watching the show, Art succinctly replies, “If we can put a smile on people’s faces while they’re learning a little something, I’m very happy.”

As we wrap the conversation, Art playfully lobs a closing comment to the viewers, followed by a mischievous chuckle.

“If you’re easily offended by anything, you’re watching the wrong show. Go watch Coronation Street and have some marmite and toast.”

Be sure to check out their brand new behind-the-scenes web series Food for Thought, where Art and Dan meet with locals, activists, farmers and fishermen across Canada, to examine some possible solutions for the major issues society faces with food today.

As a bonus, here’s a fantastic recipe from Dan Hayes’ repertoire:

Roasted Chicken with Griddled Asparagus on Fresh Greens

1 whole chicken
1 bunch asparagus
¼ cup fresh sage
2 lemons
1 cup olive oil
1 tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbs brandy
Mixed salad greens

1. Cut whole chicken by removing both legs, cutting off both breasts leaving wings
attached, and slice crown into thick slices cutting through the spine. Add chicken to a
mixing bowl.
2. Marinate the chicken by adding to the bowl: 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon
mustard seeds, ¼ cup sage leaves, ¼ cup olive oil, juice of one lemon, 1 teaspoon salt,
2 tablespoon brandy. Let marinate 30 minutes, and then roast in 450 degree oven for
approximately 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.
3. Trim 1 pound asparagus by slicing off the bottom inch of the stalk. Get a large cast iron
pan or flat griddle onto high heat, and once hot, add asparagus directly into pan. After 20
seconds, add 2 tablespoons olive oil into the pan and season with ½ teaspoon salt.
4. Let asparagus cook 2 minutes on one side, and then flip over to brown on other side.
Add juice of ½ lemon into the pan and cook until lightly browned but still retains some
5. Serve over salad