- People see the reservation as a food desert, which is true in a way, but being a chef, learning about indigenous food and know there's food all around us.
We just have to reconnect with the landscape and know what food is instead of calling everything weeds.
(upbeat music) (dog howling) My name is Brian Yazzie, I'm Navajo or Diné.
From a community called Dennehotso, Arizona.
Founder and now chef of Intertribal Foodways.
So I'm home after five years to do a cooking demo.
The first thing we'll do is pick up my family.
Today we're going to a place called the Hogan Restaurant in Tuba City, Arizona.
For me to go there with my family is to experience me coming home, you know.
And also curious as a chef just to see if there's something new on the reservation.
- [Server] Can I start you guys off with something to drink?
- [Brian] Instead of going to a chain restaurant, I like to support mom and pop stores.
All right I know what I want, I'll try the mutton stew.
- [Young Man] Mutton stew.
- [Brian] To find out whose family the sheep is from.
The mutton that I get in Minnesota is foreign.
It's from New Zealand.
So just having that cultural exchange and knowing the taste difference of hyperlocal, that was home to me.
The soup usually comes with fry bread, but I would go with Tom's tortilla.
In the 1850's, 1860's with my tribe the Navajo, we were put into internment camps, or reservations.
We were given these foreign ingredients, lard, flour, sugar.
And fry bread became a comfort food.
But it's still oppressive to where it's holding us back.
Spam is big with our food culture.
It came from rations of government commodity.
Canned meats like beef and chicken that you would still get to this day on the Navajo reservation.
As a chef, doing pre-colonial food, I had to look beyond that, and see what we originally had.
The wild game, the foraged ingredients, the cultivating of corn, bean, and squash.
Seeing what was here originally before European contact.
I bought two bags of blue corn, one bag of blue corn flour, and one bag of white corn flour.
Using that to do a food demo for my elders and my relatives.
My aunties and my uncles, and some of the local community leaders as well.
(classic rock guitar) - Next we were stopping at Kayenta Flea Market.
Seeing what's available.
I've seen a couple of food vendors where they actually had the raw ingredients, as in (inaudible) they had seed of sumac.
They had some other dried plants that you could use as herb.
They also had some medicinal plants, for sure.
We're looking at the local entrepreneurs, which are our grandmas and our mothers who are out parking on the side of the street and doing what they can to provide for their families.
I like to support our local businesses.
You know, just to keep the money flowing within that economy and helping them to stay afloat with the gentrifications that are coming in.
The chapter knew I was coming home to do a food demo.
Put some of these on here, just a little bit like that.
They put the word out there was a community feast.
We had planned to do about five to ten people.
But then the whole community showed up.
Damn, (inaudible) we need more.
It's not fast food.
- He needs to come out here, and do it in front of the crowd.
- On the logistics side, they didn't have any portable burners available.
Just do it quick, one more.
So we end up cooking in the back.
- Everybody's anxious to see what he's doing, but (laughs) we're not seeing much.
- We made a blue corn mush.
We sweetened the blue corn mush with agave, and we added some fresh berries and some seed mix of pepitas or pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and puffed amaranth.
The second was a soup.
I did a Navajo steamed corn soup, and I added squash, carrots, and White Earth wild rice.
And we had a side of a choice between bison or elk meat.
With any travel community, especially cooking for the elders, you know, it is nerve-racking regardless of how much experience you have as a chef.
You know, you always have to have that boundary, that respect for your elders.
You know, again, that falls back on the historical trauma of colonization, of food rations, of what they have grown up on, and what they only have access to.
This one's bison and that one's elk.
- [Older Woman] So when are you going to be on Rachel Ray?
- [Brian] (laughing heartily) They were into it, definitely.
- It has a sweet taste to it.
- Uh huh.
- I wonder if there's a recipe.
Yeah, does it come with the recipe?
- [Brian] A couple of elders were asking for recipes.
The lady was telling me that she has all those ingredients at home.
But she never knew that you could accumulate all those ingredients and make a soup.
We're on the campus of Dennehotso Boarding School.
And since the age of five into my late teen years I used to live here.
So there's lots of memories here.
The rock mound behind my house that was the place to go because I felt like I was on top of the world being on that rock.
I was able to overlook my house.
I was able to overlook the boarding school.
Being curious and setting goals of I want to be out there somewhere.
I want to see the world when I grow up.
That has helped me in so many ways, knowing where I come from, and knowing who I am, and knowing where I'm going.