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Revitalizing Native American Cuisine: The Minneapolis Chef Leading the Way

Minneapolis chef revives Native American cuisine

If you’re not familiar with Sean Sherman, now’s the time to get to know him. The South Dakota-born, Minneapolis-based chef, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, is making waves in American cuisine, according to Defining Cultures.
But Sherman has a lot more on his plate than cooking delicious meals for communities far and wide. He and his wife and business partner, Dana Thompson, spend much of their time leading an organization dedicated to spreading the word about the ingredients and techniques on which many of our modern dishes are based.

The Sioux Chef and Indigenous Food Education

The Sioux Chef is an Indigenous food education company made up of a team of people including chefs, restaurateurs, farmers, event planners, artists, musicians, food lovers and others with a mission that states, “We are committed to revitalizing Native American cuisine and in the process we are re-identifying North American cuisine and reclaiming an important culinary culture that has long been buried and often inaccessible.
Thompson, a descendant of the Wahpeton-Sisseton and Mdewakanton Dakota tribes, is co-owner and chief operating officer of The Sioux Chef and founder and executive director of NĀTIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the economic well-being and health of Native communities.

Preserving heritage through food

What makes the couple’s work so special? The answer lies in a passion for preserving Native heritage and keeping the spirit of his tribe alive through food, drink, music and art.
Chef Sean Sherman has had a zeal for Native American cuisine since childhood, and today he exercises that innate passion and creativity full-time. His restaurant, Owamni, opened its doors in 2014 and is located in Mill Ruins Park along the Mississippi River. Owamni means “place of swirling waters” in the Dakota language, according to PBS.

Owamni’s culinary philosophy

The recipes at Owamni combine simple flavors and textures because they are made with “decolonized ingredients”-those used long before Europeans settled the land. In other words, no dairy, wheat, cane sugar, beef, pork or chicken are used in any meal, according to the restaurant’s website. “These culturally relevant foods are physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy for communities. And it’s also much more sustainable for the earth itself,” Dana Thompson told Total Food Service.
Some of Owamni’s signature menu items include hand-picked wild rice, an elk sandwich with sweet potatoes and pepitas, grilled wild mushroom tacos, duck sausage, and a bison grain bowl. Owamni was named the best new restaurant in the country by the James Beard Foundation in September 2022, according to The New Yorker. Additionally, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” won the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook in 2018.

A Pan-Indigenous Exploration

“This Indigenous foundation that we’re building is really just about trying to understand all Indigenous peoples, like a pan-Indigenous exploration, basically, because there are so many commonalities among Indigenous peoples around the world,” Sherman told MinnPost.
Through their work with The Sioux Chef and Owamni, Chef Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson are not only revitalizing Native American cuisine, but also shining a light on the rich culinary traditions and heritage of Native peoples. They are reclaiming an important part of North American culinary culture that has long been buried and often inaccessible.
Their commitment to using decolonized ingredients and promoting sustainable and culturally relevant foods not only benefits the health and well-being of Indigenous communities, but also contributes to a more inclusive and diverse gastronomic landscape.
By combining their passion for food, drink, music and art, Sherman and Thompson create a holistic experience that goes beyond a meal. They celebrate the interconnectedness of Indigenous cultures and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diverse traditions that make up North American cuisine.
With their awards and recognition from the James Beard Foundation, Chef Sean Sherman and Owamni are shining a spotlight on Native American cuisine, showcasing its beauty, flavor, and significance. Their work serves as an inspiration for chefs, food lovers, and communities alike to embrace and celebrate the rich culinary heritage of Native American cultures.
Through their dedication, The Sioux Chef and Owamni are not only revitalizing Native American cuisine, but also the stories, traditions, and identities of Native peoples, one plate at a time.


The chef behind the revival of Indian food in Minneapolis is Sean Sherman.

What is the name of the organization he heads?

Sean Sherman runs The Sioux Chef, an indigenous food education company.

What is The Sioux Chef’s mission?

The mission of The Sioux Chef is to revitalize Native American cuisine, re-identify North American cuisine, and reclaim an important culinary culture that has long been buried and often inaccessible.

What is the philosophy behind the cuisine at Owamni, Chef Sean Sherman’s restaurant?

The cuisine at Owamni follows a philosophy of using “decolonized ingredients” that were traditionally used before European settlement, avoiding dairy, wheat, cane sugar, beef, pork and chicken. This approach focuses on culturally relevant and sustainable foods.

What recognition has Chef Sean Sherman and Owamni received?

Owamni, Chef Sean Sherman’s restaurant, was named “Best New Restaurant in the Nation” by the James Beard Foundation in September 2022. In addition, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” won the 2018 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook.

How does Chef Sean Sherman approach indigenous food?

Through his Indigenous Foundation, Chef Sean Sherman seeks to understand and explore the commonalities of Indigenous peoples around the world. He embraces a pan-Indigenous exploration to celebrate the diverse culinary traditions and heritage of Indigenous cultures.

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