As Native American cooking continues to find a following around the world, many are seeking a way to retain the culture’s proud heritage, while boosting their place in the restaurant industry. Artist’s creation, Hank Shanagher, is giving young Native Americans an inside look at their heritage — and their future.
Shanagher, a 45-year-old Native American chef in California’s San Diego area, created the Hank Shanagher Professional Cooking School for Native American children. “I knew I wanted to have a place where those kids could come and study how to prepare food,” he told the Guardian. “This generation of Native Americans doesn’t have those cultural connections to each other.” So far, 15 classes have been held.
Shanagher says he decided to create the school after seeing a gap in the market for a professional cooking course geared toward Native Americans. “I couldn’t find it, so I decided to do it,” he told the Guardian. “I never had any formal education, but I did work in restaurants, and I realized there wasn’t a single course geared to aspiring Native American chefs. That’s how I came up with it.”
Shanagher and his students work on dishes with Native American ingredients in an effort to preserve the heritage of the cuisine. In August, the Hank Shanagher Professional Cooking School hosted a benefit for the San Diego Native Americans’ Partners in Preservation program, which manages native gardens on Chula Vista’s military base.
The teachers say students should not only be able to cook authentic Native American dishes, but also provide a positive influence on their younger self. “We have a good feel for what kids are thinking and how they process things,” said Ashley Garner, 26, a teacher who says students’ futures are in good hands. “We believe in training them to be the next generation of Native Americans in the restaurant industry. We want our students to be creators not just consumers.”
Shanagher’s program continues to grow, and in May he will be launching a Chefs’ Table at Sausalito’s Chez Panisse Art and Community Cookery Center. That’s where his clients can cook and look at everything he’s teaching them at the same time. “We’re about sharing our culture with the wider community,” he said. “Chefs are very much about community and sharing what they do, so I wanted to allow folks to be on the same page.”
Read the full story at the Guardian.
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