Sioux Chef Teaches Fresh Food Cooking

Imagine you grew up in a place where all of the food available was processed, pre-packaged, no-nutrient junk. Would you know how to prepare and enjoy fresh foods for a healthier diet?

In Santee, Nebraska, two generations of Santee Sioux Nation have grown up eating basically out of a convenience store. Not only has fresh food been unavailable, but fresh food cooking skills and experience have been lost in the community.

Amy Radding demonstrates how to make potato salad with green beans at the Santee Sioux Nation in Santee, Nebraska. Using seasonal ingredients, Amy shares her love of cooking and fresh foods. You'll find the recipe below. Source: Wyatt Fraas
Now, with sky-high obesity and diabetes rates, people are looking for ways to eat better.

This year, a partnership between the Nebraska Indian Community College and the Center for Rural Affairs is bringing fresh foods back to the Santee Sioux Nation through home and community gardens, a farmers market, and a farm-to-school program.

The project is also bringing the know-how to get fresh foods into healthy diets through the Sioux Chef* program.

Building on her background as a restaurant cook, Rural Community Foods Intern Amy Radding developed Sioux Chef, an introduction to cooking and enjoying fresh foods. At each of the larger project’s market and garden training sessions, Radding prepares a homemade dinner with seasonal ingredients and demonstrates how to make one of the dishes on the buffet. Participants enjoy unfamiliar fresh foods, learn new techniques, and bring home recipes.

“I think this is really making a difference in how people eat,” said Jim Hallum, Santee Sioux Nation elder.

Other participants agree. “I always look forward to your salads at these meetings,” said a woman as she packed leftovers for her family. “My daughter never eats salad, and she just had two plates. Now I’m going to make salads like this at home.”

Gardens and farmers markets thrive and grow when people are excited to cook and eat fresh produce. With the Sioux Chef project teaching the cooking skills to back up new access, there’s a healthy future for fresh food and cooking in Santee.

*In a restaurant kitchen, the sous chef (pronounced “soo”) is often responsible for turning the executive chef’s ideas into reality. These recipes give participants tools to turn the idea of fresh, healthy cooking into reality.


Potato Salad with Green Beans


This light, vinaigrette-dressed potato salad is perfect to use produce from your garden or farmers market at any time of year. Try replacing the green beans with other vegetables to change your salad with the seasons. In the winter, frozen vegetables work well.

  • 2 pounds potatoes, unpeeled, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen green beans (or other seasonal vegetable)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or yellow mustard
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable, canola, or olive oil


Preparing the vegetables:
Bring potatoes to a boil in salted water and cook until almost tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add beans and continue to cook until potatoes and beans are tender, about 1-2 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

While potatoes are cooking, thinly slice or chop the red onion. Combine onion, vinegar or lemon juice (onion should be covered), and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Allow to sit at least 20 minutes.

Assembling the salad:
Remove the onions from the vinegar or lemon juice and add them to the potatoes and beans in a large bowl. To the remaining liquid from the onions, mix in the mustard, 2 large pinches salt, and black pepper. Add the oil and mix to make a vinaigrette.

Add about half of the vinaigrette dressing to the potato mixture and toss to coat. Reserve the remaining dressing for another use (it works well as salad dressing). Taste potato salad and add more salt if needed. Toss and serve.

Serves 8-10 as a side dish, plus extra dressing.