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Sudbury chocolatier infuses Indigenous culture into her work

Tammy Maki of Raven Rising – Global Indigenous Chocolates and Pastry aims to educate and delight with her tasty treats

The Ontario Legislature gift shop will be the latest place in Canada to feature chocolate from Sudbury-based Raven Rising – Global Indigenous Chocolates and Pastry.

Red Seal pastry chef Tammy Maki started the company in 2020 after moving back to Sudbury from Western Canada.

The 57-year-old has a long history in the chocolate and pastry scene, having studied at Cambrian College before heading west, zigzagging for work in fancy hotels from Alberta to B.C. It was there on the West Coast, she mastered baking, plating and molecular gastronomy, which is the culinary study of how food transforms when cooked.

Maki decided to return east and be closer to family in 2019, after being diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, which causes uncontrollable vertigo and hearing loss. She now has a daughter, and her family to lean on for extra support.

The plan was to start a wedding cake and pastry consulting business in Sudbury. That was short-lived when the pandemic struck.

“Wedding cakes were obsolete without weddings. I was completely depressed. Here I was in my fifties with no work,” she said.

Add to that, Maki, a victim of the Sixties Scoop, wanted to start a chocolate business as a positive way to share and educate others on Indigenous traditions.  

While she admits her foster family was very loving, the events of the 1960s saw her and her brothers taken from the White Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan and scattered across the country.

“A chocolatier business was always in my head, just like finding my birth family or finding my Indigenous self,” Maki said. “I am using chocolate to bring awareness in a comfortable and non-political way.” 

Maki is now using traditional ingredients in her chocolate and sourcing from Indigenous businesses. Her chocolates often contain items like red hairy skunk current, which taste like a cross between a cranberry and raspberry. Alder catkins, wild bergamot and mountain mint are all being brought in from certified purveyors for the bars.

Her artistic chocolates also feature Callebaut chocolate and cacao berries, that are equivalent to fair trade, from Cocoa Horizons. It ensures Indigenous farmers in other countries get paid fairly for their work.

Then there is the packaging. Maki is experimenting with plant-based and compostable ways to present her chocolate, in an effort to be more environmentally sustainable and to feel good about protecting Mother Earth.

“I have never had culture shared (with me), no stories from Elders. Just like my career moving here and there, I am doing Indigenous discovery.”

While Maki has sold truffles locally at the Nickel Refillery and the Science North gift shop, most of her business is elsewhere given her shop is virtual.
Her good friend Priscilla, who helped her name the business, is in Western Canada and is  spreading the word out west.

In the south, a kitchen supply store has been selling her chocolate. She has also been featured in Let’s Go Eco box subscriptions, based in Toronto. The luxury department store Holt Renfrew showcased Maki and her chocolate at a pop-up sale to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, on Sept. 30.

And eastward, a First Nations community in New Brunswick has contacted her regarding sales in its gift shop.

More growth and expansion is contingent on locating permanent production space rather than the continued use of rented certified kitchens. Maki needs a cool spot with no humidity and is currently surveying sites. She said education, survival and her legacy depends upon it.  

If you would like to order Raven Rising chocolate or pastry, or subscribe to her local monthly Ajijaak Chocolate membership club, visit Maki’s products can now also be purchased on the Ontario Legislative Assembly gift shop website.

Anastasia Rioux is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury.