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Warrior Woman facing Bears on prime-time television

Local Indigenous entrepreneur Matricia Bauer will appear on APTN’s “Bears’ Lair” on Sept. 11. | Supplied photo

Jason Stockfish | advertising@fitzhugh.ca

Local Indigenous entrepreneur Matricia Bauer will be one of 18 contestants on APTN’s new show, “Bears’ Lair,” that airs on Sept. 11.

The premise of the show is similar to other reality shows, “Shark Tank” and “Dragon’s Den,” where contestants pitch their products to judges, and in the end, the entrepreneurs with the winning ideas receive money to fund their projects. 

The notable difference is that, in the case of “Bears’ Lair,” all the contestants, judges and production crew are Indigenous.

Jasperites will know Bauer as the successful owner and operator of Warrior Women, a local Indigenous tourism company that offers insightful and heartfelt fireside chats and interpretive plant walks throughout Jasper National Park.

However, it is her new business, Indigenous Bitters, that has Bauer hitting prime time television to be judged by four “bears” to see which contestants will take home a share of the $180,000 prize money.

According Bauer’s website, Indigenousbitters.ca, “Bitters are small bottles of culinary extracts infused with botanicals (herbs and spices) that are used to flavour mocktails, cocktails, teas and food.”

Producing the bitters came naturally, Bauer explained, as her newest venture is essentially a linear extension of what she offers through Warrior Women.

“I think it was just another slant on my plant walks, a way of preserving my botanical extracts,” she said.

“Part of my plant walk is teaching people how to incorporate Indigenous medicine, and it felt the same way with the bitters.”

When producing her products, Bauer uses the same process involved in producing vanilla or mint extract and bitters one would find commercially.

“It’s an extracted botanical using ethyl alcohol, and the reason it’s so effective is because during the brewing process, during that extraction time, the alcohol really is an effective agent at getting the medicine out of the botanical,” she said.

“Bears’ Lair” was filmed in Vancouver in March 2022, but Bauer didn’t wait to arrive before honing her pitch and perfecting her product.

As part of her presentation to the “bears,” Bauer showcased her products in drink and food, but as she is neither a chef or a mixologist, she recruited her friend Sandy Coombe to travel with her to prepare the meals and she worked with an Indigenous mixologist to concoct the cocktails and mocktails, making the best Old Fashioned the mixologist had tasted in the process.

Coombe was in charge of all of the cooking. and Bauer was in charge of presenting.

“It was really nice to have somebody else there that knew my business and…I’m glad I wasn’t there on my own at the hotel wondering if I said and did the right thing,” Bauer said.

“And, I think that kind of set us apart, as we were really incorporating the bitters into the finished product, showing beautifully-plated food and gorgeous mocktails and cocktails, and the presentation was really over the top, and that was because I had a lot of help.”

A few restaurants and bars in Jasper are using Bauer’s most popular bitters, those being the bark bitter (willow, birch and cinnamon) and the berry bitter (cranberries, blueberries and Indigenous berry tea blend).

The berry bitter pairs really well with a sweeter meat like pork or rabbit and makes for a delicious cocktail or mocktail, Bauer explained.

“It kind of tastes like Christmas.”

While the bark bitter pairs well with an elk steak and makes a mean Old Fashioned.

Bauer explained that if it weren’t for the pandemic, she wouldn’t have had the time to play around with recipes and work on her pitch.

“I just sort of took this leap of faith and I’m really glad I did, because it was an excellent experience, and I feel like I came out with a bunch of Indigenous friends.”

She added that it was also really nice to see the level of professionalism displayed by the other contestants.

“Not that I don’t think that Indigenous businesses are professional, but it’s just that I don’t see it in Jasper because there’s not a huge Indigenous community, so it was really nice to see all these other businesses thriving all over Turtle Island (Canada).”

Bauer said that Indigenous entrepreneurs are invested not only in their product but also to a bigger story.

“They’re invested in their community. They’re invested in their family. They’re invested in their culture.”

“I was glad that I had that experience. It makes me hopeful for the future because Indigenous people are killing it all over Turtle Island in every different sector…and it was nice to see all of that (inspiring) representation,” she added.

The first episode of “Bears’ Lair” airs on APTN on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. MST.

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