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About the Owner

Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro was officially opened on November 15, 2003.

Phoebe Sutherland, (maiden name: Blacksmith) is a Cree who was born and raised in Mistissini Lake located on Quebec’s James Bay. Cooking by age ten, she started on a path that has come to fruition on the form of Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro.

As Phoebe was growing up, she moved frequently attending many different schools during elementary and high school. Finally, she ended up in Ottawa, taking Algonquin College’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program. While at Algonquin, the concept for an aboriginal restaurant was birthed through an assigned project. The present Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro greatly resembles what Phoebe envisioned in that project, including exposure of native art, artifacts on display, native music playing in the background… even the contents of the menus! After graduating, she was employed in the fine dining establishment at the Department of Foreign Affairs, serving diplomats and various government officials (including the likes of Jean Chrétien!).

Shortly after graduating from Algonquin, Phoebe began a search for culinary schools, wanting to satiate a growing desire to increase her skills and come out with a degree to add to her diploma. As this option wasn’t offered in Canada, Phoebe headed for the U.S. She decided on going to the New England Culinary Institute (NECI), attracted to their motto: “Learn by Doing.” This hands on approach was exactly what she was looking for. The Institute offered two internships, allowing Phoebe to travel and gain experience. Her first internship was with the four star French establishment named Hammersly’s Bistro where she got to work with award winning chef, Hammersly himself. Second internship was in North East Harbour, Maine with Asticou Inn – established originally in 1883 and reopened after a ravaging fire, in 1901.

After graduating from the New England Culinary Institute, Phoebe migrated to Phoenix, Arizona hoping for a closer look at South Western native cuisine. Phoebe was hired at Roxsand’s where she gained experience in many aspects of cooking, including the art of desserts.

In the summer of 2002, Phoebe returned to Ottawa at long last, Phoebe worked at Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar. Less than a year later, the restaurant opened its doors to the public on November 15, 2003.