- By Jenna Kunze
Minnesota’s first full service Indigenous restaurant, Owanmi, was named Best New Restaurant in the James Beard Awards of 2022.
The restaurant, opened by business partners Chef Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota) and Dana Thompson (descendant of the Wahpeton-Sisseton and Mdewakanton Dakota) in 2021, only serves pre-European contact foods. Eliminated from the menu are colonial ingredients, including: wheat, dairy, cane sugar, pork, and chicken.
At the Chicago award ceremony on June 13, Sherman said the win is an encouragement for all Native people that “we’re still here.”
“We’re putting health on the table, we’re putting culture on the table, and we’re putting our stories on the table,” Sherman said. “We hope that one day we can find Native American restaurants in every single city.”
For Sherman, this new honor isn’t his first brush up with the prestigious culinary award: His first cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indiegnous Kitchen, received the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook in 2018. The following year, he won a leadership award. Sherman was also a finalist for Best Chef in the Midwest region, but lost to chef Dane Baldwin of Milwaukee.
In another nod to Indigeous culinary movement, Native Chef Crystal Wahpepah (Kickapoo Nation of Oklahoma) was named a finalist for ‘Emerging Chef.’ Wahpepah is the founder of Oakland, Calif.-based Wahpepah’s Kitchen that focuses on reclaiming Native foods and educating people about their health benefits. The Emerging Chef award went to Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria in Austin, Tex.
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About The Author
Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 U.S. journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Alaskan Arctic region. Prior to that, she served as lead reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.