By Jenna Kunze
Minnesota’s first full-service indigenous restaurant, Owanmi, was named Best New Restaurant at the 2022 James Beard Awards.
Opened by business partners Chef Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota) and Dana Thompson (descendant of Wahpeton-Sisseton and Mdewakanton Dakota) in 2021, the restaurant serves only pre-European contact foods. Excluded from the menu are colonial ingredients, including: wheat, dairy products, cane sugar, pork and chicken.
At an awards ceremony in Chicago on June 13, Sherman said the win was an incentive to all Natives that “we’re still here.”
“We put health on the table, we put culture on the table, and we put our stories on the table,” Sherman said. “We hope that one day we can find Native American restaurants in every city.”
For Sherman, this new award is not the first time he has received a prestigious food award: his first cookbook, Chef Sioux’s Indian Cuisine, won the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook in 2018. The following year, he received a leadership award. . Sherman was also a finalist for “Best Chef” in the Midwest region, but lost to chef Dane Baldwin of Milwaukee.
As another nod to the Indigenous culinary movement, local chef Crystal Wahpepach (a Kickapoo Nation of Oklahoma) was named a New Chef finalist. Wahpepah is the founder of Oakland, California-based Wahepah’s Kitchen, a company dedicated to restoring local produce and educating people about their health benefits. The Emerging Chef Award was presented to Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria in Austin, Texas.
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