Natalie Rollins, AGGV Public Programs Coordinator shares her experience and observations from our Online Cooking programming: The Fragrant Mushroom with Chef Dan Hayes of the London Chef.

When it comes to interpreting our world, there are five senses to help guide us: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. If you ask, some may say there are six senses at our disposal. These senses mediate our perception of form, space, and environment. Slow observation meeting perception has the power to exponentially expand the way we further explore and understand our mysterious world.

Through conversations with both Jaimie Isaac and Mel Granley, co-curators of Symbiosis, I was thrilled to learn about their vision to incorporate culinary arts into this exhibit’s programming. How often do we look to our sense of taste when we enter visual arts learning? Why is this particular sense, similar to scent, tied so closely to memory and emotion?

I reached out to the London Chef’s inimitable Chef Dan Hayes, who is classically trained in French cuisine. It was wonderful to learn of his shared excitement and appreciation for the delightful fruitful fungi, and to hear his ‘yes’ in collaborating with us on Symbiosis’s online culinary program.


Risotto with brown champignon mushrooms. Image courtesy of the London Chef.


I remember our first conversation: Chef Dan and I talked about his culinary work in Indigenous communities and Moose Meat and Marmalade, a television show that he and Art Napoleon co-hosted on APTN.  If you’re not familiar with this incredible show or Art Napoleon’s respected work in Nehiyaw (Cree) language, please check it out! I reflected to Dan about how food and language are so connected to my Nehiyaw culture and he opened up about the Cree that he has learned through friendships and relationships.  Nônâcikan, pronounced “naa nich ee can”, enters your ears like velvety vocals. In Nehiyaw language, nônâcikan means mushroom. Language comes from the land, as many Indigenous Elders teach. It is significant to our connection and reference to the world; language and land is another extraordinary example of symbiotic

Coming back to understanding our world through sensorial perception, Jaimie Isaac shared with us a special quote from Winona LaDuke’s book, Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming:

“The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine, not only for the body but for the soul, for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors and the land.”

I would add the reconnection with the land sharpens our senses, our observations and the wonderful mysterious world of mushrooming. It allows for the introspection and respect of the natural world, only taking what we need, and leaving our footprints behind.’

We have some delicious programming to share with you in celebration of the exhibition Symbiosis.  Please delve into Chef Dan of the London Chef’s teachings and check out this culinary journey with mushrooms. View the video here:

As you might have experienced in your own lives and with the Symbiosis exhibition, mushrooms are medicine and they open an absolutely delicious experience of flavour and perception..

Hiy hiy


Written by Natalie Rollins, AGGV Programs Coordinator


Symbiosis ran from April 1, 2023 – October 29, 2023

Feature Image: Photo of Dan Hayes. Courtesy of the London Chef.