Three Indigenous Women Chefs Collaborate at Nourished

The dinner features Crystal Wahpepah of Wahpepah's Kitchen in Oakland, Tawnya Brant of Yawekon Foods in Ontario, and Elena Terry of Wild Bearies Catering in Wisconsin.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the Nourished dinner's new location, which will now take place at the Intertribal Friendship House at 523 International Boulevard in Oakland.

This Saturday, three indigenous women chefs, each representing a different part of Turtle Island, will collaborate on a special dinner for the first time.

The idea for this dinner has been brewing since chefs Crystal Wahpepah, Tawnya Brant, and Elena Terry met at the Great Lakes Food Summit, an indigenous food conference, a year ago. The three immediately found common ground as mentors and owners of indigenous food businesses. They decided to come together and host a dinner in Oakland, entitled Nourished.

"What better place to actually do a collaboration with two phenomenal woman chefs, especially in Oakland?" said Wahpepah.

Each chef will bring a different set of knowledge and traditions to the table. Wahpepah, who was the first indigenous chef to appear on the TV show Chopped, is from Oakland and is a member of the Kickapoo tribe from Oklahoma. Terry is a member of the Ho-Chunk tribe from Wisconsin, while Brant is a member of the Mohawk Nation from Ontario, Canada. Each will make a dish featuring an ingredient from her home region. Terry will make wild rice and squash featuring rice from Wisconsin, while Brant will bring rose hips for tea. Wahpepah, meanwhile, will make her signature blue corn cookies, which features three different types of corn. The chefs are also collaborating on a braised bison dish and a sorbet made of sweet grass and huckleberries for dessert.

"It's all of us coming together and creating, and something that represents ourselves as women and ourselves from our tribes," Wahpepah said.

When Wahpepah first started on her mission to become an indigenous chef, there were few other well-known indigenous chefs she could look to for inspiration, much less collaboration. Since then, she's had the opportunity to collaborate with other indigenous chefs including Brian Yazzie (also known as Yazzie the Chef) and Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino of Mak'amham, but this is the first time she's ever collaborated solely with other indigenous women chefs. Along with a nourishing, delicious meal, the three chefs will also talk about their experiences as community mentors and indigenous food business owners.

"I'm just ready to embrace collaboration and just enjoy each other's company and each of our knowledges ... and see how the outcome is, which I think is very, very beautiful," Wahpepah said.

The Nourished dinner takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Intertribal Friendship House, located at 523 International Boulevard in Oakland. Tickets are available for purchase on Eventbrite for $75.

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