Esha’s Eats: The Evolution of Aicha Smith-Belghaba | Ontario Culinary
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Esha’s Eats: The Evolution of Aicha Smith-Belghaba

Aicha Smith-Belghaba has been in the kitchen as long as she can remember. “Food is like a family member,” she explained. Coming from a large family of Mohawk and Algerian heritage, she noted that the sharing of food has become a way through which love can be communicated. It has since become a major passion as a result. 

Slice of chocolate dessert with raspberries

Creating Esha’s Eats

Esha’s Eats is her own platform from which she shares inspired Indigenous cuisine and experiences and advocates on behalf of healthy foods and lifestyles. Having admittedly started her business in a very difficult time in her life, cooking was the only skill she believed she had at the time that she could hopefully turn into something. Though, in the beginning, she didn’t have much financially, she had the skills, passion, and love of her family and community that kept her going. This turned into so much more than she could have ever imagined. 

black and white portrait of Aicha

“My great grandmother had a large family of 18 kids,” she explained, adding that any time they came together she recalls food being at the heart of it all. On her dad’s side, there’s literally an ocean between them but the love is always right there, and so is the food. Her large Algerian family she so rarely sees, but when they do, food is what forms the common grounds for communication and love. Through helping in the kitchen, preparing meals, and sharing it with others, Smith-Belghaba has begun to recognize and pursue that passion she long was unsure of.

overhead shot of fresh produce

Food, Family + Love

“Anything to do with food, I’m down with it,” she says, adding, “I started selling the food that my family makes and loves in 2018. It was something I was happy sharing and found a market for locally.” After trying her hand at catering for small events followed by a collaboration with a local restaurant to coordinate a special menu, she found it spurred her enthusiasm to try other avenues.

She signed up for programs through Six Nations Health Services that defined traditional Indigenous and pre-contact foods, as well as an Indigenous cooking class that led her to do further research. “These programs opened me up to a broader ingredient list … I studied the Healthy Roots food guide and incorporated those recommendations into recipes that formed the basis for my food style,” she identified.

These steps, although small to her, ultimately provided the basis for a larger vision. She saw a path to advocacy, education, and the representation of Haudenosaunee people through food preparation and service. “It was nerve wracking at first,“ she noted, adding that in the beginning, she often felt anxious and scared due to the time and care she put into her food. The thought that her ideas may not go over well was overwhelming. “I didn’t sleep [prior to an event] because I was thinking about all of the different steps needed to achieve the service level I wanted … and I would never want to make something I wouldn’t want to eat myself,” she explained. 


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A post shared by Aicha (@eshaseats)

Over time, she began learning through connecting with collaborators and counterparts. She did outreach, took time to grow her networks, and took a year off to think and plan accordingly. That’s when she saw an opportunity with CBC’s first Indigenous Pathways to Journalism program, and Smith-Belghaba jumped at it.

Through this, she found ways to network in her industry, improved her content development and writing skills, and learned from educational opportunities. She enhanced her gifts with food-related articles, interviews, and media that showcased local Six Nations community members as well as national Indigenous talents. Moreover, she pivoted from being in front of a camera and writing content to also associate producing on Canada’s only Indigenous radio show Unreserved.

Smith has learned through this process that food is her gift, along with her voice. Balancing her business and work in the media industry was challenging but the end goal always kept her motivated, and learning new skills was exciting for her. She admits that although she doesn’t have a business plan, she’s allowing life and this process of learning to unfold as it will, focusing on good mental health in the process.

“I do things differently. I don’t fit the mold; I make my own. I didn’t listen to people when they said, ‘You can’t do it,’ because with failure comes opportunity. There’s room for improvement and everything’s a lesson,” she identified.

The possibility of a Six Nations setting for a farm-to-table restaurant with a holistic vision and a hub of Indigenous culinary services is in her long-term sights. Smith-Belghaba sees the opportunity for made-to-order meals, cuisine that educates its customers, and healthy food lifestyles for community members at realistic prices. She notes that she’s currently not prepared to have a restaurant that requires her onsite daily, however, a vision that permits such a facility with her working knowledge and learned expertise is something she can aim toward in the meantime.

 “I need to find balance and stability and the ability to be with all of my family. Family is a part of my balance. Esha’s Eats is my opportunity to afford to take care of my family here and eventually be able to visit and care for my family in Algeria and France on a regular basis. Without them, I wouldn’t be me. And the goal right now is to do what I need to do to take care of my family, communities and myself,” she explained. 

Aicha plating a chocolate raspberry pie she made at the Taste of Place Summit

Smith notes that it’s often her family and friends in the Six Nations community who support and inspire her culinary concepts through provision of moose, venison, or fish for her recipes. They also do water bath canning and are quick to offer her these goods without expectation, noting that their interest in her stability and what her gifts can do for her is paramount.

“I want to give all of them a better life. And, if I’m 75 and still working, I want to do so not out of necessity, but out of love for what I’m doing, and for them,” she explained. Peace, calm, stability, and a healthy life are her long-term goals, and each step she takes with Esha’s Eats and her capacities in cuisine go a long way toward making that happen.

You can find Aicha Smith-Belghaba at local culinary events which she curates in the Six Nations community, follow her on the Esha’s Eats Facebook and Instagram accounts, and read her CBC media pursuits and Indigenous food showcases online

For details on upcoming events featuring Aicha’s creative cuisine and cooking techniques, visit her new website and stay tuned to her social media for future announcements to enjoy a chance to truly experience her expertise first hand!

Esha’s Eats is also a Feast On® certified experience. Read more about it at the link below!

Esha’s Eats