The Sioux Chef, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and Minneapolis Parks Foundation will partner to open a riverfront restaurant and food service venue for the future public pavilion at Water Works.
The Sioux Chef is a diverse, Indigenous-led team committed to revitalizing Native American Cuisine and reclaiming an important culinary tradition that has been long buried and often inaccessible.
The Sioux Chef was founded by Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota), who has been cooking for over 27 years. His main focus has been on the revitalizing indigenous foods. Sean has extensive knowledge of Native American farming techniques, wild food usage and harvesting, land stewardship, salt and sugar making, hunting and fishing, food preservation, Native American migrational histories, elemental cooking techniques, and Native culture and history.
In 2014, he opened his business, The Sioux Chef, as a caterer and food educator to the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area. In 2015, in partnership with the Little Earth Community of United Tribes in Minneapolis, he and his business partner, Dana Thompson, designed and opened the Tatanka Truck, which features pre-contact foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories.
Water Works, a park development project overlooking St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge, will bring visitor services and recreational and cultural amenities to one of Minnesota’s most highly visited areas.
This fall, Sherman and Thompson co-founded a non-profit called NATIFs.org (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems) for the purpose of Indigenous focused education and research and food access, which they plan to leverage in order to align with the mission of the Minneapolis Park Board as well as other projects.
The Water Works design includes a park pavilion with a rooftop patio, outdoor seating plaza, tree-sheltered city steps, playspace for children and families, and an open lawn overlooking the river. The pavilion will include the new restaurant as well as a public lounge, restrooms and support spaces; and a flexible room for small group activities.
The restaurant will be the first year-round, full service food venue within the Minneapolis Park System. In addition to its full-service venue, The Sioux Chef will also provide casual, counter-service food options.
“Our work within the evolution of the Indigenous food systems offers many opportunities for supportive nutritional and spiritual experiences,” says Thompson. “With the removal of colonial ingredients, our plan is to drive economic wealth back into indigenous communities by sourcing food from these growers first. We look forward to sharing and enjoying these diverse and healthy foods with all communities.”
Water Works is within the Central Mississippi Riverfront Regional Park, one of the most popular public spaces in the region; its estimated 2.5 million annual visits is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
“We are thrilled The Sioux Chef was interested in this location for their restaurant,” says Tom Evers, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. “Water Works will celebrate the complex history of this area, through a layered park design, as well as programming, art, play, and performance. Co-owners Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson, along with their team, are sharing powerful stories through food about the intricate relationship between people and land.”
The Sioux Chef has a mission beyond serving food. The team will work with the pavilion’s architects and landscape architects to create places within the park to grow native plants traditionally used for food and medicine. The Sioux Chef plans to create events and educational opportunities to help bring diverse voices into a larger dialogue about Native American cultures, the river, and food.
“We realize that the river corridor is Dakota homeland and the river remains important to many Indigenous cultures,” says Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “Our partnership with The Sioux Chef opens up opportunities beyond what the Park Board could achieve on its own. Our goals of providing healthy, locally sourced food and meaningful recreational and economic opportunities are well-aligned with the vision of The Sioux Chef.”
In addition to serving food, The Sioux Chef intends to have their restaurant support training and jobs for people interested in related fields.
“We are humbled and grateful for the opportunity to help honor the Indigenous history of Owamni Yamni (Place of Whirlpools). This location has been a sacred site of peace and well-being for the Dakota and Anishinaabe people for millennia,” says Thompson.
“We plan to leverage this wonderful partnership with the Minneapolis Park Board, through our aligned mission of nutritional, physical, and spiritual health for all, as well as to create food access and education about the rich history of the Native people in this beautiful area.”
The Minneapolis Park Board approved the Water Works concept in June 2017. The design team is continuing with schematic design and construction documents and will share updated plans during community engagement events this fall. Limited archaeological work and selective deconstruction of the Fuji-Ya building have begun and will continue through early 2018. Construction is expected to begin in the late summer of 2018.
Through the Parks Foundation, the majority of Mezzanine Phase funding will be provided by philanthropic investment. In 2015, the Parks Foundation launched the RiverFirst Capital Campaign, which has, to date, raised$12.3M in philanthropic gifts and commitments.