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.
(upbeat music) 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.
(blender whirring) - 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.
(drum beat) - [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.