Photo depicting Chef Sean Sherman in a black apron posing against a blue cloudy sky.

‘There Should Be Native American Restaurants Everywhere’

Chef Sean Sherman Talks Indigenous Foods and Culinary Revitalization at SPL

by Amanda Ong

This Friday, Nov. 4, Chef Sean Sherman will speak at the Seattle Central Library and online about his work highlighting Indigenous food systems in a modern culinary context. Author of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, Sherman is CEO and founder of The Sioux Chef and North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS). Raised in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Sherman is Oglala Lakota Sioux. The event will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“We’re just trying to focus on defining what are modern Indigenous foods, so our philosophy was cutting out the colonial ingredients, utilizing a lot of the plants of the regions that we live in,” Sherman said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “[We look to] all the diverse tribes out there and really try to feature and focus on creating modern Indigenous food recipes.”

Sherman’s team at The Sioux Chef is about 70% Native and comes from tribes across the country. Sherman himself has family in Seattle and has worked with members of the Muckleshoot Tribe. Currently they are working on establishing Indigenous Food Labs offering support, training, access, and education in Indigenous culinary practices in regions all over the United States. 

“Seattle is a good food city,” Sherman said. “And you can find food from all over the world, you just can’t find food from where you’re standing … you can go anywhere in this country and that’s the same story, you find food from everywhere but where you’re at. So we just want to really help to normalize, because there should be Native American restaurants everywhere.”

Black-and-white photo headshot of Sean Sherman in a chef's apron.
Sean Sherman cooks food free of colonial ingredients, and he hopes to highlight the expert plant knowledge held by Indigenous communities. (Photo: Nancy Bundt)

Sherman’s work also has a place in supporting nutrition access and combating health disparities for Indigenous communities, which often have high rates of type 2 diabetes. Sherman hopes to highlight the expert plant knowledge held by Indigenous communities and steward Indigenous knowledge bases instead of further assimilating and homogenizing.

“[Food] is the one thing we all have in common as humans,” Sherman said. “You put food in front of everybody, everybody has a common place to kind of start to open up conversations and open up thought processes. Food is just a really powerful language. And as a chef, I realized that early on that I could start to tell some of these really hard stories utilizing food, and people would listen.”

Book cover for "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen."
Sean Sherman’s recipe book came out in 2017, and is both a textbook and cookbook featuring Indigenous ingredients and recipes. (Photo courtesy of Sean Sherman.)

See Sean Sherman speak from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, at the Central Library, 1000 4th Ave. The event is free, but registration is required through the Seattle Public Library’s Eventbrite page.

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: CEO and founder of The Sioux Chef and North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), Chef Sean Sherman hopes to define Indigenous cuisine in a modern culinary context. (Photo: Nancy Bundt)

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