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New Kamloops Kekuli Café barely keeping up with demand

Employee Mackenzie Manuel preparing bannock dishes in the Kekuli Cafe Kamloops location July, 2022.
Employee Mackenzie Manuel preparing bannock dishes in the Kekuli Cafe Kamloops location July, 2022.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Elijah Mack-Stirling

A bannock restaurant that opened its doors last month has so many customers, you probably have to get in line.

Kekuli Café owner Elijah Mack-Stirling said the first month of open business has been a whirlwind.

“We are serving hundreds of gourmet bannock dishes every day,” he said.

Mack-Stirling has been working non-stop for weeks getting the business operating with help from his hardworking staff and family. He said the secret to his success is that every item on the menu is made from scratch and it comes out in the flavours of the food.

Kamloops resident Gabriella Cattaneo was among several customers at the bustling café earlier this week. 

She and her grandmother were trying the food for the first time and ordered the Smoreo Baked Bannock and the Score Baked Bannock.

“We really wanted to come here because it is something new and unique in town,” she said. “The menu is authentic and creative and the atmosphere is inviting. I like the idea and that it is different.”

Some bannock offerings are baked and some are fried and all have a creative, modern twist on the traditional Indigenous staple. These delights came with swirls of candy toppings.

It was love at first bites.

Kamloops resident Gabriella Cattaneo
Kamloops resident Gabriella Cattaneo's grandmother taking her first bite of Score Baked Bannock dish at Kekuli Cafe in Kamloops, July 14.

“It is so sweet and fresh," Cattaneo said, her grandmother nodding in agreement. "It's soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. It really is delicious. It's sweet but savoury at the same time.

"I definitely plan on going back and trying out more of the menu."

In the kitchen, Mack-Stirling was busy making traditional fry bread. Based on a family recipe, he makes hundreds of them every day.

“This family recipe has been carried on for many generations,” he said. “After I form the breads I put them in the deep fryer. They are added as a side for many of our dishes.”


Just as the cuisine at Kekuli Cafe is unique, so is the work culture, something he credits for the success and wellness of his team.

“When I welcome a new employee to the business, I welcome them to the family as well,” he said. “We are very family inclusive and when times get tough we can really pull together to get through it.”

The popular franchise is the third of its kind with an outlet in West Kelowna and an outlet, also owned by Mack-Stirling, in Merritt.

Part of Mack-Stirling’s vision is to promote his Indigenous culture and history through traditional ingredients and the warm, laid-back atmosphere. 

“The last residential school closed in 1996, the year I was born,” he said. “Just 26 years ago we were living in a racist society fighting for basic human rights and to just be acknowledged. Now we are serving bannock and welcoming everyone to join us right in the heart of Kamloops.

“I feel honoured and empowered to be a part of this.”

Mack-Stirling is motivated to use the business to invest in youth. 70 per cent of his 30 person staff at the Kamloops Café are in their teens or twenties.

“It is so honouring to have the opportunity to employ young adults and help build their leadership and character,” he said. “I don’t want this to be an end goal for them, I want them to go after their goals and dreams and know how to handle challenges and successes.”

The café is currently open between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday but hours will be expanding next week to include a supper time and weekends after staff are finished training.

The busiest times are in the morning when people are stopping by on their way to work and during the lunch rush.

When asked what menu offerings are the most popular, Mack-Stirling said it always changes but the Venison Cheese Bannock Buns and Saskatoon Berry Smoothies are favourites.

The new Kekuli Café is located in the former Starbucks space across from Royal Inland Hospital on the corner of Third Avenue and Columbia Street. 

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