alter-NATIVE: Kitchen Ep. 1
Brian Yazzie, a Diné/Navajo traveling chef, does presentations demonstrating Native cooking across the country while mentoring Native youth. Brian uses modern techniques with Indigenous ingredients, prepping amazing dishes like sumac duck confit with acorn squash, mushroom and sunflower shoots, turnips and sunchoke puree, sweetgrass-infused beet puree, and his very popular wild rice bowl.
Growing up on a reservation,
there's only so much you can do.
It makes my heart happy to motivate the next generation.
Show them that you can make a career out of cooking.
The possibilities are endless.
My name is Brian Yazzie.
I am Navajo, Diné, from a community called
Dennehotso, Arizona, which is located
on the Northeast of the Navajo Nation.
I'm a traveling chef.
I do presentation on food sovereignty,
chef demos, cooking classes,
and mainly I focus on working with native youth.
Growing up, peers and friends that I hung out with,
it was all on a negative perspective.
At the age of seven, I started cooking,
helping my mom in the kitchen.
So that was a balance of being on the street
and also being home in the kitchen helping my family cook.
The year we moved here to St. Paul,
I wasn't sure what I wanted to do.
When I got into culinary, I realized
that there was no representation of indigenous food.
And that just inspired me.
Not only did our ingredients survive manifest destiny
or colonization, but they flooded
and helped the survival of people across the world.
- When I first met Brian as a culinary student
he was somebody that had the ability to tell stories
by using modernist techniques and indigenous ingredients.
- [Brian] My go-to dish would be the wild rice bowl
which is pretty popular.
It's just a mix of wild rice with the local veg
topped with any protein you'd like.
Venison, duck, or bison.
- My name is Sean Sherman.
I am the CEO and founder of the Sioux Chef.
- [Brian] I was in culinary school at that time.
My fiancé Danielle,
at that time, we started a Native American club on campus.
We were looking for a Native caterer
and my fiancé found Sean Sherman on social media.
- [Sean] We have two restaurant projects on the horizon.
We have a catering company
we've been running for over four years.
We had a food truck called Tatanka Truck
that we ran for a couple of years also.
- When he showed up with the food that he prepared,
to me it was foreign.
The wild games and the foraged ingredients that he provided,
I didn't know anything about 75% of that.
And he found out I was a culinary student
and basically from there he brought me on,
and working under his wing and from his guidance,
even to today I consider him as one of my mentors.
- For people like Brian and myself
and some of the other chefs that are out there
who are getting a lot of media attention,
we see ourselves being really strong role models
and we see a lot of interest in young people
wanting to get more into culinary arts
with a focus on Native cuisine.
- And you can roll. You can take your knife out.
Take your knife out and roll it again.
And cut that side again.
There you go.
- [Pheobe] Our mission at Dream A Wild Health
is to restore health and wellbeing
to the Native communities in the Twin Cities.
There are kind of two ways that we do that.
We say we grow seeds and we grow leaders.
- Now you can help me cut these up next.
I'll be paired with one of the new youth leaders this year.
And his name is Michael.
I'll be working with him.
We'll be creating a dish.
- I've always enjoyed cooking
so this is just kind of a fun thing to do.
I've never really considered going into that
'cause I'm not really that good
but Brian's helping me learn, so.
- [Brian] I like to use these similar to croutons.
So keep your hand here and then hold this down.
And cover the top with your hand.
- In the past it has been an uphill battle
but I think that things are starting to change.
And that a lot of our youths are recognizing the importance
of staying connected to our land
and staying connected to our food sources.
- [Brian] So I was just infusing some of
the smokey flavor from my sweetgrass.
You can try the peas if you want.
Watercress might be a bit spicy.
- Yeah, that's really good.
- [Brian] With my reservation on the Navajo Nation,
about 25% of the population are diabetic patients.
And most of those are elders.
It's a very tricky situation because
Native population that are still in poverty.
A lot of our elders are still in that historical trauma
of moving forward from boarding schools.
It's hard to bring in a new ingredient
that is foreign to their taste buds.
Put some of these on here.
- [Woman] Everybody's anxious to see what he's doing
but we're not seeing much.
- [Brian] Regardless of how much experience
you have as a chef, you always have to have
that boundary and that respect for your elders.
- He needs to come out here and do it in front of the crowd.
- Do it, and do it quick. One more.