Four Native Culinary Geniuses: Meet the Masters, Part 2
Welcome to the second installation of Native top-chef profiles. Here, our notes on Indian country’s most illustrious master-chefs continue: each a star in his own right, and together, a constellation of culinary artistic genius.
Walter Whitewater (Dine’/Navajo)
Red Mesa Cuisine, Santa Fe, New Mexico
In the hands of self-taught chef Walter Whitewater, ordinary ingredients are transformed into extraordinary culinary creations that delight the senses from plate to palate. Having spent his early years in Piñon, Arizona, Whitewater is well-acquainted with the many delectable bounties available throughout Navajoland, and frequently includes them in his recipes, such as the often-requested Cactus Pad, Red Bell Pepper & Orange Segment Salad with Fiery Jalapeno Dressing; and the Bison Meat Indian Tacos—both of which have earned him many a devoted fan.
An outspoken advocate for healthy eating, chef Whitewater encourages us to return to more traditional foods and foodways—an ancestral diet, if you will—based more on unprocessed, organic and seasonally and locally grown plants and lean meats, such as venison and bison, and less on high-calorie, high-fat, quick-grab, uber-sized fare. As culinary advisor for the James Beard Award-winning book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations and business partner of fellow-chef and Native food entrepreneur, Lois Ellen Frank (Kiowa), chef Whitewater is quite deservedly considered to be among the most knowledgeable and creative of Native America’s premier chefs, offering recipes that are at once healthy and eco-conscious and deeply rooted in tribal principles.
With Whitewater at the helm, there’s no excuse for missing the boat on this master chef’s culinary journey into a tastier and healthier future, where deliciousness is always on the horizon.
Must-Taste: Spicy Corn Soup with Roasted Red Pepper and Chipotle Puree
Michelle Karr-Ueoka (Hawaiian)
Alan Wong’s, Honolulu, Hawaii
Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka has been in the business of creating elegant and savory dishes for quite some time, having begun her career more than a decade ago fulfilling stages in some of the country’s most highly-praised kitchens, including those of Alan Wong’s, Union Pacific, The French Laundry, and Thomas Keller’s New York gem Per Se.
Although those initial pursuits were passion-filled and well-received among discerning culinary circles, they eventually led the well-traveled Ms. Karr-Ueoka to her true calling: pastry. Upon completing her curriculum of externships, she rejoined Alan Wong’s—this time as pastry chef, where she relies on local harvests including fruits and nuts, and organic, locally produced dairy to create an impressive array of colorful, exotic treats.
Regarded as one of the islands’ pre-eminent pastry chefs, Karr-Ueoka’s reverence for the natural beauty and bounty of her native Hawaii is evident not only in the tangible effects of her elegant and expressive pastries and desserts, but also in the conscientious (i.e. local and seasonally based) sourcing of ingredients that she employs in bringing her gifts to the table, which invariably appeal both to an aesthetic and an appetite.
Must-Taste: Pineapple Shaved Ice
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