Native chefs play an important role in revitalizing indigenous cuisine and restoring Native food systems. Here are a few chefs who are making an impact on education, restoration and accessibility of traditional Native food.
Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota)– James Beard award-winning chef Sean Sherman may be one of the most well-known indigenous chefs today. He founded The Sioux Chef in 2014, an organization committed to revitalizing indigenous food through education. Sherman is a leading advocate for indigenous food systems and seeks to help others understand the importance of an indigenous diet for a healthy lifestyle.
Sherman and his team work to reintroduce precolonial foods into modern cuisine through projects such as the Indigenous Food Lab, a restaurant, education and training center focused on reintegrating traditional Native foods and indigenous-focused education back into Tribal communities across North America. Check out his cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.
Brit Reed (Choctaw)– In 2015, Brit Reed’s college essay titled “Food Sovereignty Is Tribal Sovereignty” quickly grew from a class project to an online forum for Indigenous cooks on Facebook. The Facebook group “Food Sovereignty Is Tribal Sovereignty” now has more than 7,500 members and provides a space for indigenous community members to share recipes, stories, art, techniques and more about traditional foods. Reed graduated from culinary school and continues to be an advocate for food sovereignty in Indian Country.
Hillel Echo-Hawk (Pawnee and Athabaskan)– Hillel Echo-Hawk is the founder of Birch Basket, a catering company focused on providing indigenous foods using sustainable, pre-colonial ingredients. This means no eggs, milk, beef, chicken or wheat are used in any of Echo-Hawk’s recipes. Echo-Hawk has been an advocate for protecting indigenous food systems, and has spoken out about the meaning of Thanksgiving for Native people, a day which signifies colonial violence and displacement of indigenous people. In 2018, Echo-Hawk organized the “Takesgiving” event in New York City, where chefs prepared meals using only indigenous ingredients.
Brian Yazzie (Diné)– Brian Yazzie, also known as Yazzie the Chef, is a caterer focused on providing indigenous ingredients to the community. His business supports and partners with local hunters, gatherers and farmers to restore indigenous food systems in modern cuisine. Yazzie’s goal is to revitalize healthy indigenous cuisine by applying ancestral knowledge into modern cooking techniques. Visit his website for more information.
Kristina Stanley (Red Lake Cliff Superior Chippewa)– Kristina Stanley is a pastry chef and food activist who runs two businesses: Abaaso Foods, a plant-based company, and Brown Rice and Honey, a wholesale and catering company. Both of her businesses focus on using tribally-sourced ingredients to produce healthy foods. Stanley has also worked with I-Collective, the Intertribal Agricultural Council and the Slow Food Turtle Island Association to educate communities on food sovereignty and the importance of tribally-sourced, local ingredients.