After two seasons as the star of Moosemeat and Marmalade, getting recognized has become a regular occurrence for Art Napoleon.
It’s even gone so far that the moose meat, wild game and wild berries he’d hunted and gathered in the summer were stolen from the freezer in his Saanich carport. It was just before Christmas, and it was a disappointment ahead of the holidays.
“Someone must have got wind that it was my freezer,” Napoleon said. “Somewhere out there, someone has about 15 gallons of frozen wild huckleberries picked from the alpine of Black Mountain near the Peace River.”
Napoleon showed up to Victoria about 15 years ago as a musician. He got married, and though he isn’t married anymore, he is based out of the Swan Lake neighbourhood where he helps raise two girls in the Greater Victoria school system.
He still spends a lot of time in the Peace River region, where he can always grab “another cooler full of game and berries,” when he needs it, he said.
Post-production for his popular show is just about complete. The fourth season will include a stop at Denman Island, and six episodes in Spain, as Napoleon once again pits himself, and the traditional Indigenous styles of eating, against the European cuisine of English chef Dan Hayes.
It’s commissioned for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in Canada and is now in nine countries, but has always been based in Victoria. Hayes, of course, runs his London Chef business on Fort Street. Former Saanich resident Hilary Prior of May Street productions has been with the show since the start and so has James Bay resident Daryl Whetung, who is currently in post-production with Calvin Stimson.
Napoleon actually had the original concept, which was to host an Indigenous cooking show himself, then came the idea to split it off with Dan Hayes.
“It’s much better this way, the dynamic is far better with the two of us,” Napoleon said. “We bicker and argue on air, but we really do get along great.”
Raised near Moberly Lake (a little ways from Chetwynd and the Peace River) with grandparents who didn’t speak English, Napoleon said about half the family’s food came from the land and the garden. The other half came from the store.
He’s touted for his sustainable practices and the show does its best to model zero-waste cooking. That’s where you end up with ‘shock-factor’ delicacies such as bull testicles, racoon and moose nose.
“When we travel, and we try to hunt, we don’t always catch what we seek,” Napoleon said. “You’ll see that in the show. But it doesn’t matter. We reach out to the community. We visit them. And they’ll share food with us. So we don’t always know what the menu is.”
Whether it’s in the show, or in life, Napoleon will find ways to use what others don’t.
“Lamb’s quarters, it grows wild like a weed and is loaded with nutrition,” he said. “It has to be blanched. But people pull it out like a weed and toss it in the compost. It’s a shame to throw it away.”
Among his beliefs, locals should organize a First Nations cull of the urban deer in Greater Victoria before a tragic disaster happens and before they suffer the effects of overpopulation in a non-traditional environment.
“They’ll use everything, the whole animal, just get out of their way and let them do what they did for thousands of years,” Napoleon said.
It’s just like the blackberries that grow rampant on Vancouver Island.
“I don’t know why people wait for it to be on sale in the store. Spend an hour on the Galloping Goose. Fill a bag with blackberries, stick it in your freezer for the winter.”
Visit moosemeatandmarmalade.com for new episodes coming this spring.