By Jenna Harvey, BBC
Native American chefs have been getting involved in the food business for more than a century, and in the last 30 years, much more is being done to encourage them. Harriet Washington trained with New York’s Gramercy Tavern Harold Dieterle is one of many local Native Americans who are using upstate New York to breed chefs and cook for one another. This collaboration between farmers, chefs and students has helped springboard big name chefs such as Daniel Boulud, celebrity chef Alice Waters and Marcus Samuelsson on the global stage. “As Native Americans we are masters of food, we are earth guardians,” says Harold Dieterle, who runs the Hudson Valley Cooking School in West Orange, New York, and teaches farmers how to grow seasonal foods – and, in turn, chefs how to incorporate them into their cooking. NEW YORK RICHES Gather Foodie Indie exhibition Opening on Saturday, the ‘New York Risks’, ‘Design Frontiers’ and ‘Cutting Edge’ exhibitions feature an array of foodie events In the centre of New York’s Morningside Heights, Dr Harold Washington is training a new generation of Native American chefs at his former restaurant Gather – which has hosted David Chang and Jeremiah Tower and lists three Michelin stars. “Chefs are not the only ones who have lived their lives with an interesting past,” says Dr Washington. “We are not doing the best we can now for the future generations. It is imperative that we address those issues so that this can happen. That is why we created this school and programmes like this, to educate the next generation.” Dr Washington, and many of the chefs he trains, have been working directly with the Hudson Valley’s Native American farmers. Many are from the Pimento Island and Iroquois Canadian communities, and they sell to the same restaurants as the city’s restaurants, including Gather. More modern ‘Big Apple’ As for chef Harold Dieterle, who has perfected Indian and Mexican dishes from locally-grown foods, a particular focus is on creating meals that are sustainable in origin. We have the guts to operate in the farm-to-table-culture and to cater to people in New York…but at the same time we are also maintaining our integrity
Harold Dieterle “We have the guts to operate in the farm-to-table-culture and to cater to people in New York City while simultaneously maintaining our integrity,” he says. “It’s a constant balancing act.” Dieterle gets his produce from the 5-acre garden he established on the campus of his Hudson Valley Cooking School, and creates dishes using specific flavours that only native ingredients can produce. He grows arugula, tulsi, fennel, pomegranate and other native herbs, and even his hot meals have an Indian ethnic flavour profile. “Pomegranate juice and herbs hang from the ceiling, and often sit with the dish on the plate,” says Dieterle. “It’s not an apple pie kind of dish. What we try to accomplish is to create an aroma, a sense of being in an exotic location, a village-like environment.” But this exploration of eating native doesn’t just take place in New York. Illinois’ Tommy Tavernier – the first American Indian chef in the Land of Lincoln’s celebrity chef April Bloomfield opened the Tewksbury Inn and Café, a vegetarian restaurant, in 2005. She says the restaurant can be seen as a guide to her personal and career journey. “Sustainability, access to fresh, healthy food, supporting sustainable agriculture in the region are very important to me,” she says. “Tewksbury has its own wildlife, and a brilliant farm and ecosystem. And because of the ingredients I’m able to use, I feel it’s a very authentic, authentic place.” Inspired By Learning at Tewksbury For now, at least, the food in the Hudson Valley is more than a means to create world-class gourmet dishes. It is a way of making the new wave of Native American chefs and the people who grow, cook and serve up their fare in the Valley sustainable. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the Hudson Valley is tucking into its finest American Indian dishes.
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