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The Toasted Sister Podcast delves into the world of Native food

More and more Indigenous chefs have been opening restaurants in recent years, introducing their food traditions to non-Native diners.

Andi Murphy has been tracking the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Movement for several years. That refers to, among other things, an Indigenous community’s ability to deal with issues of health and hunger by cultivating their own healthy food and controlling how that food is produced and distributed.

Murphy is the creator, host and producer of the Toasted Sister Podcast and senior producer of the Menu on Native America Calling — that’s a monthly Native food special. She joined The Show to talk about what was the impetus for the podcast and the kind of need she was trying to fill.

Full interview

MARK BRODIE: Andi, first off, what was the impetus for the podcast? What kind of need were you trying to fill?

ANDI MURPHY: Well, I had always been really interested in food. I just really noticed that there was a lot happening in the Native food world like this whole Native American food movement. This Indigenous food movement was really starting to, you know, be, be really active. So I, I just felt that there was a whole lot of room for, you know, more, more food stories out there.

BRODIE: Yeah. Well, so what kinds of changes and evolutions have you seen in the Native American food scene since you started doing this, you know, those years ago?

MURPHY: Oh, man. Well, I started the podcast back in 2017, and since then, we've really seen so much. Not only there are there a lot more Native food segments in television and live TV. There's a lot more coverage of Indigenous food and food issues in food media.

There's a couple of different chefs have really made a name for themselves in the last couple years. like, you know, Sean Sherman and Crystal Wahpepah, they've really come out of the woodwork and really shown everybody like how important this work is and how, you know, the whole community, the whole Native food community is behind them and really doing a lot of the similar work. And these days currently, I think the entrepreneurship side of Indigenous food has really seen a boom.

BRODIE: Does that mean that more and more people, especially more and more non-Native people are now eating Native food?

MURPHY: Well, I think so. I, I think they are really getting hungry for it. And, you know, and that creates a, a good market for these businesses. Some of them, some of these restaurants are, you know, kind of high end. They, you know, they, they fill that that niche, I guess in the community. And, you know, a lot of these other businesses, too, they just make available a lot of local produce and, and food products that might come from the tribe in the state. And I, I think everybody is really interested in local food. That, that's what is really driving, you know, all of this interest.

And it's also from the Native community, too. We're also getting educated about Indigenous food and becoming aware of the food products and businesses that are coming from our tribes, tribes in the states and the tribes all across the country.

BRODIE: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that because I, I'm wondering from the chef, from the restaurateur perspective, like how much are they sort of learning about all of this along with the people who are coming to their restaurants?

MURPHY: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. They have to, it, it is, it's the chefs who are really kind of at the front line of, you know, driving that interest for local food. They, they just, I think automatically know, who's doing the farming and who, who is doing the ranching and the meat processing in their area. I mean, it, it, it really makes a lot better, a lot better menu, a lot better plate for people. And they, they really have to be knowledgeable about what's around them.

BRODIE: Well, I'm curious what you hear from chefs about sort of the balance of keeping the tradition of, you know, maybe what their, what their community is known for food-wise or maybe what their family, you know, family members had cooked. But at the same time, sort of on the chef side, on the creative side, pushing forward and trying to be creative and inventive and maybe come up with something of their own.

MURPHY: Yeah, there is definitely that kind of balance I see with chefs who are actively out there that they ha have these different, like, you know, chef hats or different roles that they fill. Sometimes, sometimes they can be really true to their, say Navajos and some Navajo, really true to traditional Navajo dishes and ingredients. And they can, you know, be a, be a teacher of a culinary teacher in that aspect and share that kind of knowledge within the community. And then on the other side, they can really show all the flavors of Indigenous America.

They can be mixing blue corn with the bison and the tortillas and maple syrup and wild rice and salmon all in one dinner to showcase what Native America, what Native America tastes like and what foods are available and out there from tribal food businesses and individual food businesses. So, so I see that kind of balanced a lot among indigenous chefs.

BRODIE: What are you hearing about what might be in store in, in 2024? Like, are there any trends that are starting to emerge or that might be strengthened that have been coming up over the last number of years?

MURPHY: I think we might be seeing, maybe one or two more years of just more business, more food business. And I really want to see, maybe, a chef or a food company come up with their own line of like kitchen utensils or something like that, yeah. Yeah, I think that's kind of like the next step for any food empire, is to come up with an awesome restaurant and then, you know, come up with a chain and a, and a concept that kind of goes across the country and then, you know, your own products of aprons or, you know, kind of like a pioneer woman.

But I really hope that the movement kind of comes down here and, and you know, we hear a lot about stuff happening in the Midwest, in Minneapolis, I think because just because the, the Sioux Chef is there and Sean Sherman is, is there, you know, doing a lot of good work. I think I want to hear more from the Southwest, from here. And you know, I'm really trying to, you know, gather folks in this area and trying to make some noise in the future. So hopefully in the future, we'll see a lot more happening in the Southwest.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.