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THE INSIDER indigenizing kitchen spaces for the next generation of culinarians. As an Indigenous chef, this is important to me because only a handful of us do this type of work, and we need to be progressive to bring awareness and reclaim our original food cultures of North America. How do you revitalize healthy indigenous cuisine with hyper-local naturally-grown indigenous ingredients? Could you give us an example? I first support local and regional Native farmers, foragers, hunters, and vendors, before helping non-Natives. To me, this is the way to revitalize a cuisine that has been overshadowed by colonialism and manifest destiny. What are some of the creativity, cooking techniques, and cultural food preparations you know that you apply to your cooking today? I have attended countless intertribal food summits and community gatherings centered around food sovereignty, and I have made relationships with knowledge keepers and other chefs and cooks. Upon protocols, I am honored to practice ancestral and traditional methods taught with my cooking. How did you learn how to cook? What were some of the things you knew that you apply to your cooking today?


Chef and food activist Brian Yazzie. (Photo: courtesy)


Coming from a single-parent household and the youngest of eight siblings, I started cooking at seven. One day, the curiosity of knife tapping on a cutting board and aromatics of stew brought me into the kitchen to help my mother, and that is how I found my passion for cooking. I learn to use alternative binders and sweeteners. For example, I like to use dehydrated and powdered vegetables and fruits in my baking and cooking. I want to use agave syrup, maple syrup, birch syrup, and honey as alternative sweeteners, especially for our community members who are diabetic (allows them to stay below the glycemic line). What are some of your favorite recipes and dishes you prepare for your guests? Why are they the most important? I try to highlight staple ingredients within the land I am on. Wild rice is one of my favorite ingredients to use and is very versatile. This resilient staple can be served fresh with your favorite side dish. It can also be dry heat-toasted until puffed and used as a topping for desserts and entrees, or baked with as puffed wild rice can be ground into a flour for baking and as a binding agent. Side note: wild rice lake beds in northern Minnesota are in danger from pipeline companies and have to be protected for the future of our food sovereignty and culture. We talked about incorporating regional

Indigenous cuisine and cultural food prep earlier; how do you teach that to others? Why is that vital? And how does this showcase your Native heritage to your clients? I always share my story that cooking saved my life when I’m in the spaces of youth teachings and that they, too, can be positive role models leading by example. As an Indigenous man who has been through reservation poverty, gang-related activities on and off the reservation, juvenile and county detention centers, being stabbed and shot at, I believe sharing these types of historical generational trauma and healing through indigenous foodways is a way of teaching, and that is my focus. What does the future look like for you and your business? I have been busy through this pandemic, putting my mobile catering on hold while navigating a couple of community-based COVID-19 relief projects and taking on an Executive Chef position at one of only a few Native American-owned and operated establishments have been my focus. I wouldn’t have it any other way with a fantastic staff, a team of volunteers, and a supportive wife. At the cafe, we are in transition of rebranding with a new seasonal menu concept, and we plan for a re-grand opening in mid-January. Visit Brian’s YouTube channel at youtube. com/c/YazzieTheChefTV

Profile for Native Max Magazine

Native Max Magazine - November/December 2020  

Welcome to the Native American Heritage Issue, featuring Muscogee Creek, Colville, Salish-Kootenai, and Cherokee tattoo artist and actress N...

Native Max Magazine - November/December 2020  

Welcome to the Native American Heritage Issue, featuring Muscogee Creek, Colville, Salish-Kootenai, and Cherokee tattoo artist and actress N...