MINNEAPOLIS -- First his restaurant won the James Beard award for best new restaurant in the country, and recently, a prolific publication put his name on a list with the likes of President Joe Biden and King Charles. But now, chef Sean Sherman - co-founder of Owamni - is working on a new project.
Sherman is a world-class chef guided by the principal of making healthy Indigenous foods available, especially to Indigenous communities. He removes colonial ingredients like cane sugar, wheat flower, and dairy to unlock an authentic pathway to health.
"Growing up on Pine Ridge, we had one grocery store to service an area the size of Connecticut. That's very little nutritional access," he said. "For me, growing up on commodity program foods, I want to see something better for this next generation."
Owamni - which was co-founded with Dana Thompson, who also co-owns it - shut down in April. Since then, Sherman's been working out of a corner of the Midtown Global Market. But he's optimistic the restaurant can reopen this month; construction is starting this week and he says there will be a brand new menu for the new season.
The restaurant isn't the only thing keeping him busy. In the past month, he's gone to conferences in DC, and visited Duke University and the Google Food Lab in San Francisco.
In between all of that was the Time Gala; Sherman was named one of the 100 most influential people of 2023.
"I saw the invisibility around anything Indigenous out there, especially in the food space. There were no Native restaurants to go to," Sherman remarked. "Having cities like New York where you can get food from all over the world, any corner. Just not food from the land you're standing on."
Sherman's latest project is with his nonprofit NATIFS to open an Indigenous food labs model: a casual, counter service restaurant he hopes to one day scale in other states. It'll have Indigenous products for sale and a community classroom in the back to share knowledge, culture, and tradition.
"We could maybe do pottery classes, we could do language classes," Sherman mused.
Sherman has a full plate - a posh restaurant and surrounded by celebrities - but he's doing it to go back to his roots, to help others discover the food and culture that's being revived plate by plate.
The Indigenous Food Lab space inside the Midtown Global Market opens to the public next month. So you can grab a bit there and shop for products. The classroom space will open at a later date.
for more features.