Luke Legault is looking at a picture of two fat black pigs resting on the grass at a Yukon farm, and he can barely contain his excitement.
Legault likes bacon.
More precisely he likes to cure, smoke and cook his own bacon to sell it.
And if he can get his hands on locally raised food, then that’s just fantastic.
Since last April, Legault has sold at Wykes’ Your Independent Grocer his own line of barbecue sauces and mustard he makes from scratch.
The Ontario-born chef, who, as he puts it, “cooked his way across the country” working in Ontario, Alberta and B.C., wants to bring high-quality food to Yukoners.
He says his brand’s name, The Wandering Bison, reflects this spirit: a truly northern animal paired with the relentless quest to find the right job.
It all started when he was working in mining camps in the territory.
“The wife, who is absolutely lovely and wonderful, has really crappy cooking skills,” he said.
“She would eat less quality meals when I was gone.”
So he started portioning and freezing pre-made meals she could simply reheat when he was away.
As friends liked the products, he decided to go into business.
Since last November he’s been experimenting with all sorts of food, using the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre kitchen.
He says everyone can appreciate good, fresh food.
“You don’t have to be eating at a Michelin five-star restaurant to appreciate when a tomato is really fresh,” he said.
“It doesn’t have an elitist style thing, where only the most exclusive people in the world have access to good stuff.”
But not everybody has the time or the skills to cook some Arctic char or pulled pork with elaborate sauce and overnight marinade.
So Legault wants to make it convenient too, with his frozen packages, ready to go in the oven.
“If I can do something that can give you a high-quality product but still give you the ability to sit down and have that enjoyable time with your friend, that’s one of the best things I can possibly do,” he said.
Since he moved to Whitehorse in January 2013 he’s seen the offerings of locally produced food explode. Fresh fish, produce and meat are all available to Yukoners in the summer.
Beyond his offerings found at Wyke’s, Legault also Legault sells his bacon, pulled pork, Arctic char and his barbecue sauces through his website and Riverside Grocery.
He says it’s not just about using high quality food, but also about cooking well.
When cooking, Legault takes his time. The mass-produced $5-bacon at the grocery store? “That’s about a five-hour process from the time the pig is butchered to the time you get bacon,” he said. The meat is injected with brine and flavour, sliced and packaged.
For his bacon, it takes a minimum of two weeks. He takes a pork belly and lets it sit in a dry rub made of salt, sugar and spice for about a week and a half. He lets the bacon dry out some more before smoking it. Only after that is the bacon packaged and ready to go.
He says he takes pride in not cutting corners. For his barbecue sauce, he reduces the ingredients to concentrate the flavour. He could use a gum stabilizer or a thickening agent and double or triple his yield, which would increase his margins.
“But then I would feel like crap,” he said.
“I don’t cook because I can squeeze all these pennies out – I cook because I love it.”
Of the barbecue sauces he sells, Legault has something for every palate: Midnight Sun Expresso and IPA and peach – both made with Winterlong Brewing’s beer – sweet and spicy or even garlic Sriracha flavours.
In Vancouver, Legault had access to tons of fresh locally grown food. “But people (there) take it for granted and don’t feel the same appreciation, as often, for things that are really unique and very well cared for ingredients,” he said.
In Whitehorse, he knows all of his suppliers, and people genuinely enjoy the food grown here.
There is more of a community, at the Fireweed Community Market for example.
Cooking is also about transporting people back into memories of food they’ve enjoyed.
“I’ve always loved that when you come in a restaurant, I can connect with you on a level that sometimes even your friends haven’t gotten to,” he said.
“Try to be mad when you’re eating a really well cooked steak.”
“You can’t be mad, it’s just a wonderful feeling.”
For now, Legault hasn’t had the time to sell his products at the Fireweed Community Market, but he hopes to be able to expand.
For more information, visit thewanderingbison.ca
Contact Pierre Chauvin at