‘Showing People How Beautiful These Cultures Are’: Owamni Celebrates Historic Award

15 June 2022

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They are known as the Academy Awards of food, and a local restaurant just took home a top honor. Owamni, by the Sioux Chef, was named Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Awards in Chicago Monday night.

The Minneapolis restaurant opened last year and serves Indigenous cuisine. The co-owner of the restaurant says this win is about much more than food.

“We’re still here, you know. Our people are here, our ancestors are proud tonight, because we’re doing something different,” co-owner Sean Sherman said in his acceptance speech.

That includes cooking with diverse ingredients like quail, bison, dandelion, sunflower and toasted crickets.

Co-owner Dana Thompson said the award impact is much bigger than being recognized for the restaurant’s food.

“As soon as we heard the ‘O’ come out of their mouths, we all just like lost it,” Thompson said.

Thompson came straight from the airport to the restaurant Tuesday afternoon, for the lunch rush.

“Showing people how beautiful these cultures are, still are, and they’re still here. You know, there’s some work to do and it helps that,” Thompson said.

Meely Snyder, the executive director of the organization Dream of Wild Health, told WCCO that Owamni’s win will inspire future chefs.

“We have a huge Native population right here in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In fact it’s one of the biggest in the country, and so we just want to celebrate that as well,” Snyder said.

Connection is at the heart of the food at Owmani, and the people creating it.

“It’s so much bigger than Sean and I, and even bigger than our staff,” Thompson said. “It’s like a community service.”

Co-owner Sherman was also nominated for Best Chef Midwest.

Thompson said she hopes their win also brings attention to their nonprofit.

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