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Think Global; Act Local: An Ancestral Culture Enriching The Kitchen

An Ancestral Culture Enriching the Kitchen

Mukomere cyane! (I hope you are well in KinyaRwanda.)

Since the dawn of time, food has been a great way to build bridges between people.

November is a symbolic month in the United States where people gather around a special meal to share gratitude with loved ones but, foremost, always showing eternal gratitude to the Indigenous people of this beautiful land as they are the first stewards of this sacred and rich ancestral land.

I looked thoroughly for a Chef in our community who has mastered the ancestral art of gathering people around an exquisite meal while honoring the land we live on.

I was fortunate to be introduced to Chef Candace Stock by a dear friend. It is always hard to give justice to someone’s else illustrious life journey, hence I opted for letting Chef Candace do it herself:

“I grew up in rural Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation. My lineage is mixed, my mother is Native American and Black my father is German/European.

I moved to the East coast where I started my culinary career in high school and then attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY. From New York, I moved to North Carolina, working in catering and restaurants. I also spent some time in Montana before moving back to the Midwest. Moving from the Midwest to Virginia in the early 2000s provided a lot of new perspectives. The school I attended on the reservation included people who were White or Native, the Virginia schools had a very diverse student body.

In addressing my ethnicity, I was met with comments such as, “Oh, I thought natives had gone extinct,” “Did you live in a Teepee?” “Do they still have reservations?”

No matter how often I received these types of responses, people treated me like a novelty, calling me Pocahontas or Sacagawea. It wasn’t until I attended Culinary School that I was faced with individuals more like myself. There wasn’t a large Native population at Culinary Institute of America, but people there were eager to share their cultural identity.”

Next time you run into Chef Candace’s enchanting path, ask her what new recipe she is currently concocting!

Until our humble path cross again:

Muhorane Amata k’Uruhimbi! (May you always have milk in your home in KinyaRwanda.)

– Cyusa

Where do you call home?

The Midwest is my home. I love being close to my family but also close to my cultural roots. Moving around and traveling to other countries, I was always “racially ambiguous.” It allowed me to fit in with different groups but also share a bit of my culture with every one of them.

What is the story of your passion for traveling the flavors of the world with your cuisine?

I knew early on that I wanted to be a chef and there has always been a notion that you have to start with French cooking. My first culinary classes were at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. My experience was polished and refined, decadent and rich. My time at the CIA led to a food, wine and agriculture trip to China, where I focused on developing flavor profiles. The cultural impact of my trip impacted how I viewed the structure of most culinary schools. The fundamentals in culinary school are all French techniques, French flavors. My schooling offered insight into many types of cuisine but the best way to learn more was to spend time with the people from all over the world and cook together, eat together and share our stories.

What has been your experience as a Chef in the Red River Valley?

I work for a restaurant (Bernbaum’s) that has great respect for people. Our owners have given us a platform to share our skills, passions and identity with our community. We hosted an Indigenous dinner this past summer and will have another this November for Native American Heritage month.

After hosting our dinner in which we covered indigenous foods starting with Northern Canada down to South America, using local ingredients and family recipes, more opportunities have opened up to share. I have been able to cook for the Governor and the Dakota Tribal Leaders in Medora for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. I’ve had opportunities to work with the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems organization and have been presented with resources from Chef Shawn Sherman and Joseph Shawana.

What are some misconceptions about indigenous cuisine?

Our food is simple. It is, and at the same time, it is rich in medicine and spirituality. Our foods hold their own spirit and in order to benefit from the gifts that have been given to you, you must respect your ingredients.

Can you share some of the work you do in the community? How can others get involved?

I am looking to make a change in the food culture here in Fargo. We have incredible talents in the FM area and my future endeavor is to create a more accessible platform for other chefs to do what they love but also celebrate their culture. Food gathering helps to break down a lot of barriers in communities. The gift of nourishment can provide a better understanding of who we all are but also reciprocal love and respect. I am currently working on finding my own opportunities to share my knowledge and culture with the community whether it be teaching classes at the local universities, hosting dinners or partnering with local artists.

As a serial entrepreneur, what is the next problem you are trying to solve?

What can I bring to Fargo? My original plan was to start a catering company here and simply do weddings, corporate functions and events.

I have been in Fargo for four years now and still finding my place. What I would like to do is expand on our cultural food scene. This could even involve opening my own restaurant.

What is your vision for 2030 for the Fargo-Moorhead community?

Ideally, having a restaurant group that is culturally inclusive, and having a venue space for the diverse people that call this their home. Sharing commissary space and promoting other BIPOC restaurateurs and artists.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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