On October 1, renowned American Indian chefs Lois Ellen Frank and Walter Whitewater (Navajo) joined four of Guam’s premier chefs on the island in the Pacific Ocean to prepare a gala dinner, “Eat Your Heritage Tour.”
The five-course meal explored “the importance of environmental sustainability and its relationship to cultural preservation,” according to Kimberlee Kihleng, Ph.D., the executive director of the nonprofit Guam Humanities Council, the sponsor of the tour. The council provides resources and support for the indigenous people of Guam.
“The goal of the project is to encourage the locals to explore the important connections between food, health, culture and the environment,” said Monaeka Flores, marketing and programs coordinator for the Guam Humanities Council. “It is sadly true that diabetes and other diseases are typically higher among native communities,” she continued in an interview with guampdn.com.
The grand occasion attracted some 200 supporters at the Hyatt Regency Guam in Tumon. The tour also aimed to “help with the training of a new generation of chefs,” Dr. Kihleng told the Marianas Variety.
The prominent Guam chefs who collaborated in the kitchen with Frank and Whitewater to prepare a dinner with techniques and ingredients from the desert southwest and the island of Guam included: Josef Budde from the Hyatt Regency, Peter Duenas from Meskla Chamorro Fusion, Paul Kerner from Guam Community College, and Geoffrey Perez from Proa Restaurant.
“Guests can expect to navigate through a culinary voyage of sustainable foods that were available to early Chamorros and still remain to all of us today,” said Perez before the event to guampdn.com. Perez has been cooking professionally for 19 years.
“Food is sustenance. It has such cultural significance. It’s also about the environment, the land. It all comes together around food,” said Frank, an award-winning author (she published the James Beard Award-winning book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, in August 2002), Native foods historian and a photographer who has spent more than 18 years documenting foods and lifestyles of American Indian tribes from the Southwest. Frank and Whitewater own and operate the Santa Fe, New Mexico-based Red Mesa Cuisine, a catering company dedicated to keeping traditional American Indian cuisine and culinary techniques alive.