Trailblazers 2016: Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef


Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef // Photo by Heidi Ehalt

Our Trailblazers in the culinary world are thinking about food differently. They’re challenging diners. They’re defining what kind of food makes sense in The North and what makes sense for conscious dining in the 21st century. And perhaps no one is doing that like Sean Sherman, better known as The Sioux Chef.

It’s difficult to quantify the interest Sherman has generated in 2016, though one figure stands out as a fine place to begin—$148,728. That’s the amount Sherman and business partner Dana Thompson raised on Kickstarter through the contributions of a record setting 2,358 donors. Soon they hope to secure a brick-and-mortar location to open The Sioux Chef restaurant.

Not only has our community come out in droves to support a talented chef aiming to bring indigenous foods to the masses, we’re equally excited to discover what the food itself will become. We’re hoping to discover something new in something very old—Sherman is working to illuminate exactly what indigenous cuisine is to begin with.

The natural conclusion of the farm-to-table movement is to imagine that ethos before commercial farming. A reverence for the land should drive us to discover its natural bounty, rather than what’s been imposed on it. New Nordic cuisine has dabbled at the edges of this idea, but too often confuses locality with austerity. Instead, Sherman’s cooking tastes as vibrant as it looks.

He starts with the staples—the wild rice, squash, and venison you might expect to see. And through a mix of technique and exploration, he revives them with the aromatics of the Upper Midwest—amaranth, sumac, rose hips, chokecherries, juniper, wild sage, cedar, and maple. These are the flavors of The North. And word is he’s working on a cookbook with Beth Dooley, another prominent evangelist for the spoils of our local larders.

What we’ve seen from Sherman so far is food that celebrates our region’s native history without being encumbered by the strange notion of “authenticity.” Native people were not cooking like Sherman cooks—rather, he’s interpreting the ingredients of the Upper Midwest through a lens the Twin Cities hasn’t yet seen. And now with a potential television cooking series, perhaps the rest of the country will soon get a better look as well.

Sherman is promoting a philosophy of eating that, somewhere in the deep recesses of our collective experience, we knew we needed. Sherman is a Trailblazer for materializing that longing on the plate, and encouraging us to do the same.

Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.

About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.

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