The struggle is real, but keep your dreams in focus, says business owner

Curtis Cardinal

Tee Pee Treats

Tee Pee Treats, Catering, Indigenous

It all started with a dream to establish a fully licensed restaurant. Now Curtis Cardinal is pleased to say he’s on the second phase of that dream.

The Indigenous Business Profile speaks with Curtis Cardinal of Tee Pee Treats Indigenous Cuisine in Edmonton. Cardinal is a Whitefish Lake First Nations member and grew up in Northern Alberta.

At a young age he was taught to cook by his mother. Cardinal says he owes all his skills to his mother and the aunties who took care of him when he was just a little boy. There are so many great cooks in his family said Cardinal and Tee Pee Treats is dedicated to all those who have passed down skills to him.

Tee Pee Treats serves contemporary bannock-infused dishes made from the heart with love.

Cardinal believes you can get wherever you want in life and in business. He says you can succeed. You just have to believe in yourself.

“It all started when I was a little boy. My mom used to cook in kitchens when I was about four and five… and has been cooking in kitchens for most of her life.”

Cardinal lived across the street from one her kitchen called Beachaway Café and would go there at lunch, and he would help cook for the lunch rush. “So I learnt all my cooking skills from her.”

He said he really liked cooking breakfast in the morning, and he still continues to do that today.

“As I got older, I kind of went off track for awhile. I was addicted and homeless and went through all that struggle with my addictions.” It wasn’t until about 2010 that he decided he wanted to pursue his dream to cook as a profession. He started selling bannock dishes at powwows around Edmonton.

“The journey has been long and you have to have patience,” Cardinal says.

“You have to continually work on your skills. You have to work toward a goal and accomplish each goal accordingly.”

Though it’s been a struggle, COVID has complicated his business dream further. The catering jobs dried up, so this year they decided to try delivery and take-out. His kitchen is in the back of a church and it’s worked out really well, he said.

After working in the inner city at non-profits serving at-risk populations, Cardinal has maintained his connection there.

“I used to drive the 2-1-1 crisis van with Boyle St.” He worked at Ambrose Place for a year. He said he’s always tried to be of help, but before he could help others he had to choose to help himself.

“I had to get sober. I had to find my way.”

He advises young people to believe in themselves. Believe in their dreams, goals and aspirations.

“Never forget where you come from. Always give back when you can. Don’t ever forget your family. Don’t forget the family that has brought you up as a young kid to an adult, and teach others respect. Work hard.”

He’s up at 5 in the morning and in bed by 10 at night. “As soon as I get up I’m go, go, go, go, go.”

To be in business you have to have a strong work ethic and you have to take care of yourself, body and mind. “And everything will fall into place.