One Arrow Meats and Finding Happiness in Bacon
Heat Laliberte is sharing his passion for charcuterie and his Indigenous culture through his artisan bacon business, One Arrow Meats.
He takes pride in his naturally smoked bacon, made in small batches with local ingredients, and loves selling at Vancouver’s Farmers Markets where he can really connect with his customers and share his story.
Heat had a tumultuous childhood growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His biological mother had him when he was quite young, and had him up for adoption. He remembers a very humble upbringing with a family that always struggled financially to make ends meet.
Even though Heat was born a girl, he remembers as early as three years old feeling that he was born a boy. “I would do things like hide any of the dresses that my mom would give me because I just was so uncomfortable. And yeah, figuring out who I was, was very difficult. I didn’t even know what the word transgendered was, so I couldn’t even identify. I never said I was gay when I was a teenager because I knew that’s not what the word was for who I was.”
In first grade, Heat discovered that he was adopted. “We had this school project where I had to draw what my heritage was. I asked my blue-eyed, blond mother, ‘Why I don’t look like you?’ And then she told me that I was adopted. And I was completely devastated. I was ashamed that I wasn’t her birth child. And then you just feel like you don’t want to tell your friends that you’re adopted, you know, so there’s a psych burden of shame that no child should ever have to feel, but it’s just something that I carried with myself through adolescence.”
Heat was also struggling at home at the time he found out he was adopted. “My upbringing was so tumultuous. It wasn’t stable. So my cultural identity, kind of like a backburner, where it was more like, do I have a safe space to stay? I was constantly running away from home because this home just wasn’t stable. Once I got older, I was able to explore that a lot more.”
At 20 years old, Heat moved to Vancouver and got a job working in a restaurant kitchen. He quickly fell in love with the city and working in the culinary industry where he connected with people who became friends and mentors. “I felt like the chains were taken off of me. I loved how the community just embraced me for who I was, and how I was able to just make friends so quickly. And what I love about cooking is that the opportunities for learning is endless.”
Around this time, Heat applied to get his adoption papers. Though the names were redacted, he was able to see that his birth father was Cree and his birth mother was Métis. “I feel very proud. And every day is like a new learning experience for me about my culture. I’m so grateful to make friends that are Indigenous as well. And just being able to ask them questions about about my culture.”
As Heat continued his career as a chef working in some of Vancouver’s top restaurants, he began to explore his roots. Heat joined an entrepreneur program at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Society Centre. “The teacher was like, ‘What are you good at? What are you passionate about?’ And first off, of course, I thought about charcuterie, I’m good at it. I love it. I’m passionate about it. We had a few months to formulate a business plan, presentation and an elevator pitch. And my whole plan was to start my own bacon business and sell bacon at the farmers market. And the whole time I kept on drawing an arrow over and over and over again. I just thought, one arrow. So that’s kind of where the name comes from.”
“I think it’s important to put my Indigenous culture in the forefront of the business, because it’s something that I’m very proud of. I think it’s something that I want people to support, I think people should really support Indigenous business. And I think it’s something that’s constantly evolving and, and as the business is evolving, I’m starting to find out and explore more about who I am. It’s kind of like the journey of One Arrow also coincides with the journey of who I am.”
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