The Sioux Chef, co-founded by Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota), is revitalizing Indigenous foodways through Indigenous Food Lab inside Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Food is at the heart of cultural reclamation, says Sean Sherman, the Oglala Lakota founder and CEO of The Sioux Chef. The James Beard Award winning cookbook author and entrepreneur is playing a vital role in the revitalization of Indigenous foodways — most recently, through his team’s opening of the Indigenous Food Lab inside Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Indigenous Food Lab is a professional, classroom kitchen that expands on The Sioux Chef’s return to pre-colonial foodways. The Sioux Chef brand is a multifaceted empire: food truck, catering business, nonprofit, educator and incubator for a growing league of Native chefs.
Sherman and co-owner Dana Thompson’s nonprofit, NāTIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems), is responsible for the Indigenous Food Lab, which will continue the nonprofit’s mission through educational videos, training and classes.
“NāTIFS will drive sustainable economic empowerment and prosperity into Tribal areas through a reimagined North American food system that also addresses the health impacts of injustice,” according to a release. “The act of recognizing this is the first step toward healing generations of ancestral trauma for many.”
The educational initiative and professional kitchen serve as a live training center for Indigenous food research, preparation and service. The lab shares ancestral wisdom and skills such as plant identification, gathering, cultivation and preparation of Indigenous ingredients.
“We’re so excited to call Midtown Global Market our home,” Sherman said. “This space will be the heart of all of our future efforts to bring access and awareness to Indigenous Education and Indigenous Foods. Wopila!”
As Sherman previously shared with Native Business, his Indigenous food initiatives will start in Minneapolis and ripple across Turtle Island and the world. The Sioux Chef team intends to replicate and franchise the Indigenous Food Lab model. These “satellites” will empower indigenous food businesses across North America. “We’re hoping to have those Indigenous Food Labs not only in the [continental] U.S., but eventually in Canada, Alaska and Mexico, and to create this large indigenous food network as we grow,” Sherman said.
The culinary crew known as The Sioux Chef are also in the midst of building their brick-and-mortar restaurant at Water Works Park pavilion overlooking St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, currently under construction.
While The Sioux Chef team is growing, they’re also lending tremendous community support amid the pandemic. Throughout the extended shelter-at-home period, Sherman, Thompson and their team have collaborated with Central Kitchen to feed Twin Cities residents, cooking more than 400 locally-sourced Indigenous meals per day.