A New Restaurant Is Devoted to Indigenous American Cuisine

Sean Sherman is exploring Native American culture through cooking.

squash dish by sioux chef

Up in the frigid expanses of the Nordic, in settings both cosmopolitan and remote, a pair of chefs have meticulously explored the flora, fauna, and cooking customs of their native country to create culinary sensations. René Redzepi of Noma and Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken have elevated Nordic cuisine to new heights. And they’re not alone.

Around the world, chefs are asking themselves what the cuisine of their homeland truly is. With an emphasis on land. They want to connect themselves to what grows in the region and cook from that. There’s Virgilio Martínez exploring the regions of Peru; Ben Shewry in Australia; and Sean Sherman is exploring indigenous American cuisine.

Sherman—founder of Minneapolis-based catering company the Sioux Chef—has partnered with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation to open a restaurant in addition to his food truck and educational programs. Diners will be able to experience the culture and flavors of Native Americans through Sherman’s cooking.

That begins by removing ingredients brought over by colonists and reconnecting to what originally grew in North America. So out are items like dairy, beef, pork, chicken, and processed sugar. In their place, you’ll find wild game, bison, sage, chokecherries, elderflower, and more.

The idea came to Sherman after spending most of his life working in restaurants and not seeing these ingredients get the recognition they deserved. Sherman, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, founded the Sioux Chef in 2014 and developed the Tatanka food truck in 2015, serving wild rice bowls and tea made from cedar and maple.

His restaurant will have both dine-in and fast casual sides, and is part of the Park Foundation’s larger redevelopment of the land overlooking St. Anthony Falls northeast of Downtown Minneapolis. The restaurant will open as part of that project’s first phase, which is scheduled to be completed in 2019. Along with the building, Sherman will grow native plant species inside the park for use in the kitchen and to educate park visitors.

For the Sioux Chef organization, this restaurant is also part of a larger mission to help bring healthier food to Native American communities around the country, where many deal with “food deserts” that don’t give them access to proper nutrition. Sherman also wants to source from indigenous food producers as a way to support entrepreneurship in Native American communities.

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