Executive chef Stephan Schigas test-plates a charcuterie of local meats and cheeses alongside Lelem’ employee Leanne Richardson. The new arts and cultural cafe opens this Saturday (Dec. 7) on Fort Langley’s historic riverfront.

Lelem’: A new place to ‘come together’

Arts and cultural cafe opens Dec. 7 in Fort Langley

A traditional blanketing and blessing ceremony on Saturday (Nov. 30) marked the upcoming opening of Fort Langley’s Lelem’ arts and cultural cafe, a wholly-Kwantlen First Nation owned venture almost a year in the making.

“It’s a really flexible space and the idea is to create community — to bridge the gap between the Kwantlen community and the Langley community,” said Drew Atkins, project manager with Seyem’ Qwantlen Development Ltd., which spearheaded the venture.

Lelem’ — pronounced “laylam” and meaning home or place to come together —  is set to open officially on Saturday (Dec. 7).

“It’s just a way of reminding people that the Kwantlen people have been here,” said Atkins.

Pointing to the large wooden conference table inlaid with glass and displaying arrow heads and tools found on traditional Kwantlen land, he explains that half of the artifacts date back more than 5,000 years.

Originally from Vancouver, executive chef Stephan Schigas spent 12 years as a chef in the United Kingdom working at Michelin star restaurants and even running his own venture. He now lives close to Lelem’ in Fort Langley and is excited about the local focus of the business, which will feature cuisine with a First Nation’s twist.

“Everything’s freshly made,” said Schigas. “We’re making everything from the mayonnaise on up.”

“Traditionally, First Nations people gathered food that was available to them so everything was local, everything was seasonal and everything was fresh,” explained Atkins.

“It’s the same kind of idea [here]. We’re using a lot of game. We’re using a lot of things that are produced locally.”

“It’s unlike anything that’s available in Langley right now.”

The cafe will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving up everything from house-made breads, soups and locally sourced meats from the Fraser Valley. The menu will also feature JJ Bean coffee and cheese from Golden Ears Cheese and Milner Cheeses.

“The whole philosophy is very environmentally friendly as well, based on Kwantlen beliefs,” said Schigas, referencing the distinct lack of straws, sugar packets and bottled water at Lelem’.

The walls of the cafe and cultural centre display work for sale from First Nations artists and the space includes a bright and technology-friendly community space that will be available to rent and also house community cultural programming.

Schigas says that although not yet finalized, the arts and culture programs will most likely include courses in traditional First Nations skills such as carving, tradition languages, painting, and basket weaving, as well as classes in pastry and chocolate making.

In January an agreement was made between the Township of Langley and Seyem’ Qwantlen Development, which saw the facility built in the new Bedford Landing Amenity Space at 23255 Billy Brown Rd.

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