CHICAGO — You don’t have to go far from home to visit a national James Beard Award-winning eatery.
Minneapolis’ Owamni by the Sioux Chef, led by Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson, took home top honors in the 2022 Best New Restaurant category at Monday night’s ceremony in Chicago.
"Just so overwhelmed and grateful," Thompson said.
Sherman added, "We're just really happy to bring this win back to Minneapolis and Minnesota, in general."
A previous James Beard Awards honoree for his cookbook and leadership, Sherman and Thompson expanded their efforts last year to include Owamni.
Owamni by the Sioux Chef opened in July 2021 at the new Water Works Pavilion building at Mill Ruins Park near downtown Minneapolis. The menu draws from ingredients sourced from Native American producers and highlights Indigenous cuisine.
KARE 11's Heidi Wigdahl interviewed Sherman days after Owamni first opened.
"We really just try to bring awareness because we believe there should be Native American Indigenous restaurants all over the place that really represent the land and the history and the cultures of where we are today," said Sherman.
Sherman said the menu doesn't have any colonial ingredients, such as dairy or wheat flour.
"We just really want to see more Indigenous restaurants across the nation so people can experience the amazing diversity that we have here in North America," Sherman said.
Sherman and Thompson's nonprofit, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NĀTIFS), helps other Indigenous entrepreneurs.
"It's not just the kind of food we're doing. We want them to tell us what they want and it has to be specific to their tribe. So we've got a lot of work ahead of us and this is definitely going to help," Thompson said.
This latest recognition puts a spotlight on a restaurant that's already well-loved.
"We've been sold out every night since we opened up last July. So we've already been at saturation point this whole time. But there's going to be obviously a lot more people calling in and trying to get reservations," Sherman said.
Thompson added they have more than 1,000 people on the notify list most weekend nights.
While it's hard to get a reservation, they recommend their patio tables or bar seats which are first come, first served. Their food truck — Tatanka Truck — will also be outside the restaurant this summer.
"Sean and I started working together almost eight years ago and all of the things we imagined happening, almost all of them have happened right now," Thompson said. We've made so many things work and we couldn't have imagined winning Best New Restaurant. It's hard to believe that it's real."
Drawing near the end of his speech at Monday's awards ceremony, Sherman said he hopes to see more support for Indigenous initiatives.
"Please, you guys, support indigenous initiatives out in your region," he said. "We need it, and we can do this together."
Sherman was also nominated for Best Chef: Midwest at this year's awards.
Additional Best Chef: Midwest nominees from Minneapolis included Jorge Guzmán of Petite León and Yia Vang from Union Hmong Kitchen.
Local filmmaker Jesse Roesler also won a James Beard Award with forager chef Alan Bergo in the Instructional Visual Media category for "The Wild Harvest with Alan Bergo."
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