In 2021, it opened its doors owamni restaurantof Oglala Lakota chef Sean Sherman, in Minneapolis. restaurant of indigenous cuisine An American rejecting the ingredients that came to the continent after the arrival of Europeans, that means their dishes are made without wheat, dairy products, cane sugar, black pepper, among others, The New Yorker magazine reported.
Given this quality, Sherman describes the food served at Owamni as “decolonized,” while his business partner and former partner, Dana Thompson, calls it “ironically foreign.” The restaurant, which celebrates Native American cuisine, was named the best new restaurant in the country in June by the James Beard Foundation.
The restaurant is located in a park on the Mississippi River near San Antonio Falls, once home to a Dakota town known as Owamniyomni, a place of falling and swirling water.
“There was clearly a town here. People everywhere,” chef Sharman told a reporter for The New Yorker one evening in May outside the restaurant. “But the Europeans said, ‘Now they call you San Antonio!’
While the food is “decolonial,” the restaurant breaks its own rule by serving coffee, beer, and wine while its bartenders wear black T-shirts that read “#86colonialism” on the back, where 86, in kitchen jargon, means that a plate is sold out.
Owamni’s menu is a reminder of which products are from the mainland and which are not, according to The New Yorker, “American carnivores” think of beef, pork and chicken when they hear the term meat, but the restaurant reminds them “that farm animals in picture books are not native to this continent.”
Although the intention is to present “how the indigenous people ate for millennia”, the food at Owamni is not from a museum, as the US media points out, but is both “pre-colonial and modern”.
According to the paper, the menu includes “Baked Maple Beans and Cedar Bison with Maple Vinegar.” Wojape, a Lakota berry sauce, is served with tepary bean spread and Lake Superior smoked trout. A bowl of shredded sweet potatoes drizzled with chili oil is Sherman’s favorite dish.”
Their options also include manoomin, hand-harvested wild rice, part of the Ojibwe people’s prophecy of traveling west until they find “the food that grows in the water.”
The paper explains that the manoomin is harvested in canoes, its grains plucked from the heads of rice stalks growing in shallow water, and delivered to the restaurant by a young Ojibwe couple who own a small farm in northern Minnesota.
About two-thirds of Owamni’s employees claim to be native, as do many of its visitors, while a neon sign at the entrance reads “You are in your homeland,” according to the paper.
“To understand Native food today, you have to know how we got here,” Sherman said in 2017 when he introduced Natifs, or Traditional Indigenous Food Systems of North America, a non-profit organization that promotes cuisine and solutions to crisis, economic and health issues.
The aboriginal people who paved the way for what we know today as North America cultivated a variety of climate and yielding plants, including sunchokes, lambsquarters, pumpkins, knotweed, and goosefoot, and hunted bison, which roamed as far east as Buffalo, they also had fish and shellfish.
“The diet of our ancestors was almost a perfect diet,” Sherman said. “That’s what the paleo diet wants to be: gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free.”
“Invading Europeans were amazed at the abundance. In 1687, after the Marquis de Denonville, governor of New France, attacked a Seneca village, he wrote that his army “destroyed a great quantity of fine corn, beans, and other vegetables.” In 1779, George Washington ordered an offensive against the Iroquois Confederacy, writing, “It will be necessary to destroy their crops now in the ground, and prevent them from planting more.” Later, an official wrote of beans, cucumbers, watermelons, and squash “in such abundance” that “it would be almost incredible to civilized people,” some of the compensation the natives received according to the newspaper.
This situation led the tribes to change their eating patterns and rely on “basic” rations, including bags of flour, powdered milk and eggs, lard and orange-white American cheese. , as Sherman recalled from his childhood, cans of beef jerky. and salmon “with juice”.
“It wasn’t a nutrition program, it was an agricultural supplement,” he told attendees. “This food was never designed to be healthy. It’s high in fat, in sodium,” the chef reflected.
Lacking ancestral food, Native Americans have the highest rates of diabetes in the United States compared to whites, are 60% more likely to be obese than the trend for all ethnic groups, and are more likely to die from diseases that affect the heart.
However, the memory has lived on among the 574 federally recognized tribes, the recipes spread through the reservations until they were stored in the kitchens of grandparents, leaving the record for preparing sofke, making pemmican and nixtamalize corn, cooking grain with low temperature in an alkaline solution.
According to Chef Baca, “with traditional dishes, people don’t always like it, it’s not what they grew up with. They grew up eating shit like all Americans. And the colonial mentality has captured their taste buds.”
Chef Sherman grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where 43% of its residents live below the poverty line and they occupy a small fraction of the land that once belonged to the Great Sioux Nation, a confederation of seven tribes from around the world. the upper Midwest and the Plains who spoke dialects of the Siouan language, particularly Dakota, Nakota and Lakota, The New Yorker explains.
Sherman’s love of cooking began when his mother took her two sons to South Dakota, where his hectic schedule forced him to take on the responsibility of putting meals on the table for his little sister.
He got his first restaurant when he was thirteen, making salads at a resort called Sluice, then worked at a resort where he was promoted to grill. There he experimented with recipes that included rattlesnakes and beavers, which Sherman found exciting. “I also remember becoming more aware of racism,” he said. Ku Klux Klan propaganda was displayed at a Spearfish gas station.
In 2001 he got his first job as head chef at the Hispanic-Italian restaurant La Bodega, the following year he had his first child and started looking for a job with better hours, while his marriage broke up, until after a business trip. of an affair near the Canadian border this summer “that broke me emotionally,” Sherman told The New Yorker.
In 2007, he left Life Time Fitness, wrote recipes for dozens of cafes and ran three restaurants due to exhaustion and headed to San Pancho, a hippie town where he started selling sashimi, where he got the blueprint that would take him 14 years later. it being the best new restaurant in all of the United States.
“I had this lightning bolt, an epiphany,” he said. Why was there no indigenous food in the north? “In Minneapolis, I could find food from all over the world,” he continued. “But nothing that represented the food or the people that were there before,” this while enjoying local Huichol food in San Pancho.
A 39-year-old single father with an income of less than $55,000 a year, he planned to start something of his own, says The New Yorker, “just trying to figure out how and when.”
Thompson and Sherman, business partners and a former partner, met at an event called Dinner on the Farm in 2014, shortly after they had a personal meeting where she offered to be the manager of Sioux Chef that Sherman had created, “I did. I don’t have the money, but I hired her,” he said.
With Thompson’s help, he gained more recognition, hosting dinners to order, speaking at the Culinary Institute of America, the United Nations, and Oxford University, and in 2017, he published “The indigenous cuisine Chef’s Sioux,” an American cookbook, was featured in Disaster Food in Denmark and later in a commercial for Hyundai.
Thompson and Sherman partnered to create a take-out cafe, but as construction progressed, they envisioned something bigger, which became a reality in July 2021, joining the handful of Indian restaurants in the United States. , el Tocabe in Denver and Mitsitam Native Foods Café in Washington.
Sherman didn’t set out to become an executive chef, but since opening the restaurant, he has spent 80 hours in the kitchen. While he’s the face, Thompson is the glue, the one who plays an “important role” in the organization, so even though their romantic relationship ended shortly after Owamni opened up, neither has any intention of leaving. which they have built together, in order to assert a culture on Native Americans and that in June it rose as the best new restaurant in the United States.