Wasaw providing lunch for mine workers

Duane Hicks

Lunch is served.
Wasaw Enterprises of Couchiching First Nation has partnered with Big Grassy First Nation to provide lunch services at New Gold’s mine construction sites.
Starting this past Monday, Wasaw Food Services began serving up hot lunch to workers at the “Mars” site out of a new, start-of-the-art food truck.
“Just like a lot of the contractors that are partnering up with First Nations at New Gold, we are the contractor doing the work in partnership with Big Grassy,” Couchiching Chief Sara Mainville explained.
“The wonderful thing that New Gold is making sure is every contract that they sign, there’s aboriginal participation,” she noted.
“We are one of the contractors that want to do work there so our aboriginal partner is Big Grassy First Nation.”
Big Grassy First Nation has a life-of-mine contract to be the exclusive on-site food seller at the New Gold’s Rainy River project. Big Grassy will be getting exclusive benefit of revenue-sharing.
In return, Wasaw Enterprises, which is Couchiching’s economic development body and whose name means “far” in Ojibwe, has promised to train Big Grassy community members.
“We had to do a business plan, figure out if it’s going to work, how’s it going to make money, and, of course, deal with all the rules and regulations that New Gold has on the site, and make sure we complied with all of that,” Chief Mainville said.
“There’s ongoing training, and we hope that we’ll employ some Big Grassy First Nation members,” she added.
“And with Ryan [Parisien] being a Red Seal chef, he’d be able to do some additional training beyond the Seven Gens culinary program.”
Parisien and Tracy Morningstar of Wasaw Food Services are heading up the crew that will be preparing food and taking the truck out to the mine site.
The truck will be at the “Mars” construction site to start, with plans to expand to the two other sites in the future.
Morningstar said Friday afternoon that they’re preparing to make 50 sales to start and see how much interest there will be.
“We were just out there today and we have 20 sales for Monday,” she enthused.
“That’s before us even arriving,” echoed Parisien.
“There’s a lot of buzz about it out there,” he added. “They’re excited about it coming.”
Wasaw Food Services recently hosted a breakfast for 300 people at the “Aecon” construction site at the mine and it was a big success, Parisien said.
Parisien noted Wasaw was informed Friday that they potentially could have 500 people buying food from them—and that number only will grow.
“It’s an interesting proposition because right now we are finding what kind of market is there,” he explained.
“We know the market’s there but we don’t know what to expect.
“We know they want us; we just don’t know how many of them want us,” Parisien laughed.
The whole purpose of using a truck is to deliver the food “where it needs to go,” said Morningstar.
Because there are so many different construction locations at the mine, wheels are needed to get around the massive site.
“People need food and the only way to get it there is to have a transport truck like this,” she noted.
Morningstar said the new lunch truck is impressive. It was shipped here from Montreal and features everything a food service provider would need to supply hungry workers.
It has an ample room to keep warm food warm, cold food cold, and store supplies, noted Parisien. And it’s equipped with enough propane to operate all day long.
It also has its own hot water source so making coffee and tea is a breeze.
The truck is configurable, as well, so it could have a six-tier oven (as it currently does), two ovens, or any number of other options.
“How efficient this truck is, it’s so awesome,” enthused Morningstar. “A six-tier oven is amazing.”
“It’s a buffet on wheels,” Parisien remarked.
“Depending on how many trucks we buy, we could have a full-service restaurant right on site,” said Chief Mainville.
About five trained staff will start preparing food at 6 a.m. each day. Then a minimum of two staff will take the food truck out to the New Gold site and serve lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Because there are multiple construction zones on the property, the lunch truck only will be at each stop for a short time before going on to the next one.
“They want us in and out in 10 minutes,” noted Morningstar.
And as more trucks are needed to meet demand, more people will be employed to prepare and deliver the food.
If they had four trucks, for instance, they would need at least eight people to take them out to the mine site and serve up the food.
The truck will return and staff will prep for the next day, take food inventory, and order more supplies until 4 p.m.
Wasaw Food Services will be providing hot lunches.
Those working at the mine will be able to see what food they’ll have in the vehicle on any given day by checking out their website, Morningstar explained.
“You can just make your order and we’ll go directly to you,” she noted.
Parisien said the menu currently consists of about 15 items or so.
“Ideally, we will set it up so they pre-order,” he remarked. “That will give us a good indication as to what to bring.
“But we’re also going to overages so we can do point-of-sale sales right there.
“We’ll bring along all of the food people pre-ordered and then we can make their lunch for them on an individual basis—basically, write their name on a bag—so then they’ll come and pick up their lunch from us,” added Parisien.
“But then as well, we’ll be set up to do sales for anybody walking by.”
The menu will be a “living document,” subject to change based on what proves to be popular or what season it is, Parisien said.
“We’re going to produce foods that we know are going to sell, and then we’re completely open to any demands that come in.
“We’ll try to follow seasonal foods as much as possible and we’re pushing local product,” Parisien stressed.
“And Wasaw’s kind of flavour has an aboriginal flair to it, so the menu will follow along that line, and it kind of already is.”
To start with, the menu includes trendy hand-held foods such as pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, and Philly cheese steak.
But because of the versatility of the truck, it’s possible the food service could expand in the future to include breakfast, beverages, snack foods, and full dinners, complete with a dessert menu, Parisien said.
Wasaw Enterprises is excited and hopeful about the new venture.
“Let’s make this work for the life of the mine,” said Chief Mainville.
“Eventually, we’ll have a fleet of trucks,” envisioned Morningstar.
“This is truck number-one,” Chief Mainville vowed.