MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota is a state known for its large Native American population. But, can you name a single native restaurant?
A local chef who grew up on a Lakota Indian reservation is looking to change that.
And his efforts are getting national attention.
This week, Jason DeRusha Eats with The Sioux Chef.
Chef Sean Sherman has worked in restaurants since he was 15.
But he always felt something tugging him back home to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
“There was a lot of wild timpsula, which is a prairie turnip which grows everywhere out there. There were lots of chokecherries growing around, we did some hunting growing up,” Sherman said.
The food of his Ogalala Dakota Native American childhood was completely absent in the kitchens where he worked.
“I always tell people, you can go into the city and find any cuisine around the world except for the one that was created right under your feet,” Sherman said.
So, Sherman launched his own catering company called The Sioux Chef, a play on sous chef, the second in command.
“What I did was look backward and think, what was in the pantries 300 years ago and what were people utilizing? What were the staples,” he said.
Part of his goal is education; talking and cooking with teens at Little Earth of United Tribes in Minneapolis.
He asks them about where their families came from while teaching them about where their food may have come from.
“Digging back into history and seeing what people were typically growing in their gardens before the Europeans came around,” he said.
He’s found original strains of corn and ground sumac berries.
He hopes to open a Sioux Chef restaurant.
“I wanted to go way back beyond fry bread, and I really wanted to think about how the corn meals were being utilized and processed. What they were doing with dried berries, how they were using trees for food,” he said.
Some of those ancient seeds have been preserved, and a couple farms are growing native crops.
But without chefs taking leadership to research and to cook, it’s a part of our food history in danger of being forgotten forever.
There’s only one Native American restaurant in the U.S., and that’s in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
A national news program will be spending a couple days with Sean this coming week.
So remember where you heard about him first!