You probably know Minnesota best as the place with the massive mall, miles and miles of bike trails, the home of our beloved Prince, and of course, snow. And then more snow. And while all of these traits make our state truly a special place, Minnesota holds a rich culture and history that reaches back much further than MOA and Prince.
Native Americans called Minnesota home long (long, long) before Europeans arrived. Many of our cities, rivers, lakes, and well, even our state name is of Native American origin – the name Minnesota is from the Dakota Sioux word mnisota which means “sky-tinted water”. And while many Native American traditions have been lost or buried over the years, Chef Sean Sherman is using his culinary skills to bring awareness back to the mainstream and revitalize the lost art of Native American cuisine.
A member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, Sherman has spent the last 30 years cooking around the country to educate, re-identify, and resurrect what traditional North American cuisine truly looks (and, more importantly, tastes like). Through his non-profit The Sioux Chef and his successful food truck Tatanka Truck, Sherman is bringing back healthy, indigenous ingredients and incorporating them into modern-day cuisine to create energizing and delicious dishes.
Sherman explains, “For the Lakota there’s a lot of spirituality in the landscape, in the animals, and in the plants themselves. The knowledge of the plants is something that we’ve lost a little bit over time but we’re at this point where we can bring this all back.”
The food Sherman creates is original and authentic to Native American culture and tradition using only game meat, foraged plants, and wild grains. His signature dishes avoid European imports and influences like wheat and dairy, thereby naturally making all of Sherman’s food free of dairy, gluten, soy, processed sugar, beef, pork and chicken. And through his dishes you get a true taste of a region and culture as he uses a variety of native herbs and wild plants such as lamb’s quarters, chamomile, chokecherries, nasturtium, and elderflower.
Sherman’s ultimate mission, goes beyond the table: Sherman hopes to educate and share Native American cuisine, knowledge, and healthy techniques with future generations. And, luckily for us, after an amazingly successful Kickstarter campaign raising over $148,000 and partnering with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, Sherman will be able to continue cultivating his vision and talent with a brand-new restaurant at a new riverfront pavilion called Water Works.
The restaurant’s location, overlooking St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge, holds a special spiritual significance for Native Americans marking a place that shaped their traditions, history, and culture. Indeed the restaurant’s opening will be more than just delicious and healthy food. According to a press release, The Sioux Chef team, “will work with the pavilion’s architects and landscape architects to create places within the park to grow native plants traditionally used for food and medicine. The Sioux Chef plans to create events and educational opportunities to help bring diverse voices into a larger dialogue about Native American cultures, the river, and food.”
The restaurant will have a full service sit down area as well as a walk-up counter much like Sea Salt and Tin Fish. Unfortunately, we’ll have to have some patience before we can enjoy Chef Sherman’s exceptional dishes as the restaurant is expected to have its grand opening sometime in 2019 – but I have a feeling it will be well worth the wait.