“The Sioux Chef” dishes on the past — and future — of Native American cuisine

Indigenous Native American cuisine is hard to come by in mainstream dining. Sure, bison burgers and fry bread tacos pop up on menus and roadside stands here and there, but those dishes barely begin to tell the story of traditional Native American cooking.

Chef Sean Sherman wants to bring Native American cuisine back to its roots. Sherman, 41, is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He’s spent much of his culinary career piecing together how his ancestors ate before they were colonized. After college, Sherman moved to Minneapolis and started working in the restaurant industry. Now his catering company, The Sioux Chef, and forthcoming food truck, mimics meals indigenous to the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes native to the Minnesota area. Think cedar-stewed rabbit with fiddlehead ferns, roasted duck with blueberry and rosehip sauce, and corn and honey sorbet.

Cooking healthier dishes is important to Sherman. Almost 1-in-3 American Indians and Alaskan Natives are obese and diabetes rates among native people are nearly two times higher than the general U.S population. Part of the problem is that many Indian reservations are located in food deserts. Sherman’s cuisine emphasizes fresh, native ingredients — like maple, wild onion, and chokecherry — and avoids processed sugar, dairy, and white flour. (Even fry bread, the flattened, deep-fried dough seen as a staple Native American food, has a complicated history. During The Long Walk, a period of forced Navajo relocations from Arizona to New Mexico in the mid-1800s, government-issued flour, sugar, and lard rations made fry bread a safeguard against starvation along the 300-mile walk.)

I spoke with Sherman about his research process, his culinary secrets, and “oppression food.” Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

On his deep dive into food history.

I started buying every cookbook I could find on Native American food and nothing was offering what I was looking for. I was looking for that knowledge of the usage of wild foods and the usage of preserving things, what people were picking, and what people were growing. It’s not like there was a Joy of Native American Cooking cookbook out there for me to use as a guideline.

I really delved into wild plant identification and usage, ethnobotany [the science of the relationships between people and plants], the regional cultural differences of the different tribes, [and] the history of migration of tribes. I’m looking at what it was like to eat in the mid-1800s, basically....more 

ART: Sol Halabi

Water Dream by Sol Halabi 

How This One L.A. Block Became Analog Alley, A Destination For All Things Retro

Most of the time, when people talk about Sawtelle Boulevard, they mention the Japanophile stretch near Olympic, known as Little Osaka, where you can buy authentic red bean mochi, Sanrio knickknacks and mouthwatering ramen. (The general area around the stretch is now technically known as Sawtelle Japantown). But if you walk a few blocks north of that stretch, toward Santa Monica Boulevard, you’ll discover Analog Alley.

It’s where the eight-decade-old Nuart Theatre shows indie and cult films and where you can rent videos from one of the last independently owned video stores in the city. You’ll find a record store with a hammock hanging out front and a used bookstore with a tintype photography studio. Down the side street of Idaho Avenue, there’s another used bookstore, this one filled with gewgaws and doo-dads from yore. If you want a slice of the past, this is where you go...more 

Why Jackson Pollock gave up painting

With their sooty pools and block structures, the ‘black pour’ paintings of Pollock’s late period mark his rejection of sex and the erotic aspects of his drip techniques. A new exhibition shows how the artist formerly known as ‘Jack the Dripper’ reached the end of the line

After Late Matisse, Late Rembrandt and Late Turner comes Late Pollock, the most daring late show of all. Jackson Pollock (1912-56), the great leaky Prometheus of American art, is always assumed to have peaked around 1950, thereafter succumbing to the demons of drink, depression, adultery and cack-handed and colourless quasi-figuration, followed by (in 1953) painter’s block. Pollock’s descent into hell ended horrifyingly and murderously when, in an alcohol-fuelled rage, he drove his convertible Oldsmobile into a tree at 80mph, decapitating himself and killing a female passenger – and nearly killing his young mistress – in the process. No wonder Pollock has been the textbook example of Scott Fitzgerald’s line about there being no second acts in American lives...more 

Why design is like acting – and how you can improve your pitches

Designer Stanley Hainsworth reveals what all creatives can learn from the world's best actors.
Stanley Hainsworth is the CCO of creative agency Tether. He blogs about everything from brand storytelling to the transference of time, and spoke at this year's Design Indaba. Here, he explains why design is like acting…

The job of an actor is to look at life, discern the way people behave and reflect that behaviour in the most genuine possible way so that the audience will believe in and empathise with the character.
But if affectation seeps in or even the slightest glimmer of pretence is revealed, the delivery falls flat and the character's integrity is irreparably broken.

I like to compare this to the job of a designer tasked with creating a branding campaign: you're trying to design something with passion that people will care about, but if you don't truly believe in the concept or the client, then neither will your intended audience.

Making emotional connections

Of course, when you're acting it's also about creating that emotional connection with the other characters on stage. In this sense observation is as important as delivery.

But when you're up on stage auditioning for a role, it's essentially the same as pitching a design concept or presenting your work. Both require an embodied, affective relation to the material – the script or the design rationale – in order to be convincing to the audience or the client.

What's important in these situations is not to take things personally. Presenting a design idea is not the same as presenting yourself, just as playing a part in a play says nothing about an actor's personality.

Yet this is a trap that some designers, and especially young designers, fall into. Like the actor, the designer must learn to handle rejection, otherwise they will quickly lose confidence in their art....more

MUSIC: Superhumanoids - Anxious In Venice


MUSIC: The Chainsmokers - Roses (Ft. Rozes)