Indigenous Delights

Indigenous Culinary Arts Training Program
 Aug. 17-19 A Multicultural Affairs and Dining Services Collaboration

The Office of Multicultural Affairs created this program in response to the need for representing indigenous cultures and cuisines at Bates. It complements ths Wabanaki, Bates, Bowdoin and Colby Initiative (WBBC) which is committed to the recuritment and retention of indigenous students from Maine, and by extension, indgenous communities throughout the country. 

Freddie Jonathan Bitsoie, director, Classic Cooking Academy in Scottsdale, Ariz., trains dining service workers.

Chef Bitsoie's mission is to explore the essence of Native cuisine so that an understanding of the cultures within which the cuisines are based can begin. This approach, which gives each tribe in native America credit and reverence, simultaneously promotes individual health and well being. Bitsoie was born in Monticello, Utah, and is a member of the Dine (Navajo) Tribe. While studying anthropology at the University of New Mexico, he changed course to attend culinary school in Scottsdale, Ariz. He now serves as director of the French and Native American Program at the Classic Cooking Academy.

With Chef Bitsoie: John Caron, over pot of simple syrup and orange rind, to accompany cheesecake; Jane Herrick, baking and inspecting pumpkin bread that will be used in pumpkin bread pudding; different staff working with a chocolate cake made with pine nuts and served with strawberry sauce.  Also, addressing dining services staff before they begin preparations for dinner that will include salmon, asparagus and risotto.

Native cuisine is not traditionally one that includes both savory and sweet.

Bates Dining Services cook John Caron (foreground) and chef Freddie Jonathan Bitsoie, an authority on Native American cuisines, make an orange sauce for cheesecake. Pinenut-crusted salmon and pumpkin bread pudding were also on the menu as Bitsoie visited in August to work with kitchen staff from Bates and Bowdoin.

A collaboration between Dining Services and Multicultural Affairs, Bitsoie’s program was designed to increase representation of Native American culture on campus. (Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and Maine’s Indian tribes are working together to draw more Native American students into college.)

A member of the Navajo Nation, Bitsoie parlayed a college anthropology major into food-service training. Now he combines history, anthropological research, and standard culinary practice in his work — the goal being to honor ancient foodways while adapting them to the modern kitchen. It’s as much about communal stories as ingredients or techniques, he says. “Through those stories we’re taught how to respect food, how to respect culture, and preserve our way of life — meaning anyone from any background.” Bitsoie directs the French and Native American Program at the Classic Cooking Academy in Scottsdale, Ariz. Photograph by Phyllis Graber Jensen.

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