BY STEPHANIE FRIEDMAN
Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images
As of 2023, Chef Sean Sherman can add Julia Child Award Recipient to his long list of impressive accolades. The 2022 James Beard Award winner, cookbook author, and one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2023 will be formally honored with the Julia Child Award at a gala in Minneapolis on October 24, per a press release. He will also receive a $50,000 grant from The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts that will help support his non-profit, the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems, and its Indigenous Food Lab, which includes a kitchen and training center. “Sean and Julia share a dedication to education and a commitment to inspire change,” said Eric W. Spivey, Chairman of The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.
While Sherman’s central mission — to build momentum and awareness for Indigenous food systems — may appear different from Julia Child’s television-based culinary career at first glance, Sherman was inspired by Child’s work from a young age. “I saw the impact that food can have on the world through Julia and I’m excited to continue her legacy through my work,” Sherman said, per the press release. “With the generous grant from the Foundation, I look forward to continuing my efforts to develop educational materials and programs for Native communities and fostering the rich heritage that is an essential part of American culinary history and life.”
Sherman’s highly influential career as a restaurant co-founder, non-profit owner, and champion of Indigenous food systems started when he was 13 years old in the town he grew up in: Spearfish, South Dakota. He cooked in restaurants and worked for the Forest Service during high school and college, and, in his time off, he watched Julia Child’s PBS show, “The French Chef,” per the press release. Inspired by Child’s goal of spreading French cooking in the States, Sherman began looking for ways to bring awareness to Native American food.
His career since then has done just that. After discovering there were no Native American restaurants in North America, he co-founded the Minneapolis establishment Owamni by The Sioux Chef, which serves modern Indigenous food and sources primarily from Indigenous producers. According to Sherman’s website, the menu omits “colonial ingredients” such as beef, pork, chicken, dairy, wheat flour, and cane sugar, focusing instead on those native to North America, like wild game, insects, and beans.
Through his cookbooks, non-profit, food lab, and restaurant — along with regular speaking engagements, classes, and community dinners — Sherman is revitalizing Indigenous food in the States, just as Child did with French cuisine years ago.