Cherokee chef competes in Iron Chef-style competition

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
07/29/2011 07:07 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee chef Don McClellan speaks to judges during an Iron Chef-style competition July 24 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. McClellan created two appetizers, three entrees and two desserts for the competition. COURTESY PHOTO
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee chef Don McClellan prepares a dish during an Iron Chef-style competition July 24 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. McClellan lost the competition by one point. COURTESY PHOTO
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen and chef Don McClellan stepped out of his comfort zone July 24 to compete in an Iron Chef-style competition as part of the 2011 “Living Earth Festival” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

The annual Washington, D.C, festival celebrates Native contributions to protecting the environment, promoting sustainability and using indigenous plants for health and nutrition.

McClellan, 34, originally of Nowata, said he was invited to compete by his mother Carolyn McClellan, who is the NMAI assistant director of community and constituent services.

“With my education and experience, she thought it would be a great opportunity for me to come to D.C. and showcase all my talent,” McClellan said.

His competition was Chef Richard Hetzler, the executive chef for the NMAI’s Mitsitam Café, who won the 2010 inaugural competition.

McClellen has been a chef for 17 years and is the executive chef at Atria Vista del Rio in Albuquerque, N.M. He describes his dishes as “flavorful New Mexican.”

He said he prefers to keep his preparations simple and flavorful and that his Southwestern style meshed well with the competition’s ingredients of corn, beans and squash – the traditional “Three Sisters” among Native farmers.

He said having worked with the main ingredients for the past six years as a chef in Albuquerque prepared him the competition. He also said he was able to use the derivatives of corn, beans and squashes in addition to the actual ingredients.

“I can use squash blossoms as opposed to using zucchini or yellow squash…Corn tortillas would constitute use of the corn,” he said before the competition. “It’s going to be challenging for the simple fact that corns, beans and squash have to be in each dish.”

For the competition, each chef and his assistants had to prepare two appetizers, three entrees and two desserts using the main ingredients. They also had fresh salmon, duck and buffalo meat available.

McClellan said creating dessert pastries is not one of his strengths and that he was concerned about his desserts. To prepare for the competition, he said he ate New Mexican-style food, read cookbooks and studied various ways “the Three Sisters” can be prepared.

He said one of the strengths he brought to the competition was his ability to flavor foods to make them multi-dimensional in taste. He takes pride, he said, in flavoring and seasoning food so that his customers don’t feel the need to flavor it after it reaches their tables.

The competition was judged on taste, color and presentation and included a time limit. The chefs had one hour for prep work and one hour to prepare their dishes before serving.

The competition was held in the museum’s outdoor amphitheater, and McClellan said during the competition the temperature was around 102 degrees, with a heat index of about 115 degrees.

He said he knew he had to focus in the heat and “cook with his heart” and that he was capable of winning because he had a good menu.

“It’s an opportunity I don’t want to walk away from and say, ‘oh well, I could have done this or I should have done this.’ I want to leave it all out there in the competition,” he said.

Judgment was handed down by a group of local chefs. The panel consisted of Scott Drewno, executive chef at “The Source by Wolfgang Puck” and last year’s Washington, D.C., Chef of the Year; Brian Patterson, Hetzler’s opponent from 2010; and Pati Jinich, executive chef at D.C.’s Mexican Cultural Institute and host of the cooking show “Pati’s Mexican Table.”

A report from the competition states McClellan was the crowd favorite. However, he lost by one point, 629-628.

McClellan said he “loved the competition,” networking and getting out of his “comfort zone” and believes it will help his career.

He said it was a learning experience and that it confirmed he could keep up with the “big boys.”

“I know that I can cook, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. People love my food,” he said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961

ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎻ.--- ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎩᎳ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎦ Don McClellan ᎤᎳᏍᎬᏒ ᎾᏃ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎤᏪᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎦᏰᏉᎾ ᏔᎵᏍᎪᏅᎩᏁᎢ ᎤᏖᎳᏛ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᏧᎾᏓᏃᏣᏟ ᎠᎾᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏌᏚ “ᎠᏕᏗ ᎡᎶᎯ ᎠᎾᎵᎮᎵᎬᎢ” ᎾᎿ Smithsonian’s ᎬᎾᏕᎾ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᏂᎪᏔᏅᎲᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎹᏱᏟ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯᎢ ᎤᏃᏢᏒᎢ.

ᎾᎿ ᏑᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎢᏳᏓᎵ ᎠᏍᏆᎵᎰ ᏩᏒᏓᏃ, D. C, ᎠᎾᎵᎮᎵᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏁᎯᏯ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎪᎸᏗ ᎠᎾᎵᏏᏅᏗᏍᎩ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅ, ᎠᏂᏁᏉ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ ᎤᏛᏒᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏓᏤᏢ ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ.

McClellan, ᏦᏍᎪ ᏅᎩ ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎾᎿ ᏃᏩᏛ ᏂᏓᏳᎶᏒ, ᎤᏛᏅ ᎤᏥ Carolyn McClellan,ᎤᏬᏎᎴ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎤᏖᎳᏗᏍᏗ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎠᎵᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ NMAI ᎠᎵᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᏗᎫᎪᏔᏂᏙᎯ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎾᎥ ᎠᏁᎲ ᏂᏓᏛᏁᎵᏙᎲᎢ.

“ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏓᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎩᎦᏙᎲᏒ, ᎤᏪᎵᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏱᎦ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏇᏅᏍᏗ ᏩᏒᏓᏃ ᏯᏆᏛᏗ ᏂᎦᎥ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ McClellan.

ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎠᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ Richard Hetzler, ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒ ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎪᏢᏒ NMAI’S Mitsitam ᏧᎾᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ, ᎤᏓᏠᏒ ᏔᎵᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

McClellan ᏗᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᏂᎨᏐ ᎦᎵᏆᏚ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒ ᏗᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ Atria Vista del Rio ᎾᎿ Albuquerque, N. M. ᏄᏍᏛ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏓᏍᏓᏴᏅ ᎠᏑᏯᎾᎢ ᎢᏤ ᏍᏆᏂ.”

ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏟ ᎬᏩᏰᎸᏗ ᎤᏓᏍᏓᏴᏅ ᎠᏛᏅᏫᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎯᏓ ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏍᏗ ᎤᎲ ᎤᎦᎾᏮᎤᏕᎵᎬ ᎤᏃᏢᏗ ᎪᏢᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏑᏴᏅᎲᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᎨᏐ ᏎᎷ, ᏚᏯ, ᎠᎴ ᏍᏆᏏ-- ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏧᏅᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ ᎨᏎ ᏗᎩᎶᏒ “ᏦᎢ ᎠᎾᏓᎸ” ᏓᏃᏎᎲ ᎠᏁᎯᏯ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ ᏗᏂᎶᎩᏍᎩ.

ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏗᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᏭᏍᎪᎵᏴ ᎠᏑᏴᏓ ᏕᎬᏗᏍᎬ ᏑᏓᎵ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎬ Albuquerque ᎤᏍᏕᎸᎲ ᎠᏛᏅᎢᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᎤᏛᏅᏃ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎬᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏔᏂ ᎾᎿ ᏂᏓᏳᏓᎴᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏎᎷ, ᏚᏯ, ᎠᎴ ᏍᏆᏏ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎠᏑᏯᎾᎥᎢ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎤᏠᏯ ᏱᎩ ᎬᏗᏍᎪᎢ.

“ᎡᎵᏊ ᎠᏮᏙᏗ ᏍᏆᏏ ᎤᏥᎸᏅ ᎾᏃ ᎠᏮᏙᏗ Zucchini ᎠᎴ ᏓᎶᏂᎨ ᏍᏆᏏ…… ᏎᎷ tortillas ᎡᎵᏊ ᎬᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏎᎷ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏱᎩ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏄᎴᏅᏓᏊ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ. “ᎡᎵᏃ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᎸᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏳᏍᏗ ᎪᏢᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏎᎷ, ᏚᏯ, ᎠᎴ ᏍᏆᏏ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏗᎬᏙᏗ ᏖᎵᏙᎩᎢ.”

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ, ᎠᏂᏏᏫᎭ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏩᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᎤᏃᏢᏗ ᏔᎵ appetizers, ᏦᎢ entrees ᎠᎴ ᏔᎵ ᎤᎦᎾᏍᏗ ᎬᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏍᎪᎵ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

ᎯᎢᏃ ᎤᏂᎰ ᎾᎿ ᏧᏂᎩᏣᏍᏗ ᎠᏣᏗ, ᎧᏬᏄ ᎠᎴ ᏯᎾᏏ ᎭᏫᏯ ᎬᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ.

McClellan ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎪᏢᏍᎪ ᎤᎦᎾᏍᏗ Ꮭ ᏙᎯᏳ ᏩᏍᎪᎵᏴ ᏱᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏓᏅᏖᏗᎭ. ᎯᎠ ᎪᏢᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎵᏍᏓᏴᏁ ᎢᏤ ᎠᏂᏍᏆᏂ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ, ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏓ ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏔᎾ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎢᏗᎦᎬᏁᏗ “ᏦᎢ ᏗᎾᏓᎸᎢ” ᎦᎪᏢᏙᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ.

ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏌᏊ ᎤᏟᏂᎪᎯᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏲᎯᎲ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏑᏴᏅᎲᏍᏗ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏑᏴᏅᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ. ᎠᏢᏈᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ, ᎠᏑᏴᏅᎲᏍᏗ ᎠᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮭ ᎠᏎ ᎢᎤᎾᏑᏴᏗ ᏱᎦᎩ.

ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᏓᏄᎪᏗᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᎩᏍᏗᎢ, ᎤᎵᏑᏫᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏄᏍᏛ ᏅᎬᏁᎲ ᎠᎴ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᏚᏟᎢᎵᏙᎸ. ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᏑᏟᎶᏓ ᎠᏛᏅᎢᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏑᏟᎶᏓ ᎬᏂᏍᏔᏅᏗ ᏃᏊᏃ ᎦᏍᎩᎸ ᏩᏠᏗ ᎤᏂᎩᏍᏗᎢ.

ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᏂᎪᏔᏅ’ ᎤᎦᎾᏮᎦᎶᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᎸᎡᏗ, ᎠᎴ McClellan ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏄᏗᏝᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏔᎵ ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎾᏃ ᏄᏗᏞᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏍᎩᎦᏚ ᎨᏒᎢ.

ᎤᏛᏅ ᎤᏅᏛ ᎾᎿ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏄᏗᏢᎬ ᎠᎴ “ᎤᏓᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏓᏅᏛ ᎬᏗ” ᎠᎴ ᎬᏩᏓᎪᏅᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎤᎾᎥ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎤᏓᏍᏓᏴᏙᏗ.
“ᎯᎢᎾ ᎠᏆᏜᏅᏓᏕᎸ Ꮭ ᏯᏆᏚᎵᏍᎨ ᎠᎩᏅᏗᏍᏗ ᎯᎠ ᎠᎴ ‘ᎯᎢᏛ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏱᏂᎦᏛᎦ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏱᏂᎦᏛᎦ.’ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏓᏥᏃᎯᏯ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅ.

ᏗᎫᎪᏗᏍᎩ ᏚᎾᏑᏰᏒ ᎾᎿ ᎢᎸᏍᎦ ᏯᏂ ᏗᎾᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ, ᎾᎿ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎾᏑᏰᏓ ᎯᎠ ᎨᏒ Scott Drewno, ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏗᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ “”The Source by Wolfgang Puck” ᎠᎴ ᎡᏘ ᏧᎨᏒ ᏩᏒᏓᏃ D.C., ᏗᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᏑᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ; Brian Patterson, Hetzlers ᎤᎾᏓᎪᎾᏔᏅᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ; ᎠᎴ Pati Jinich, ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ D.C ᎠᏂᏍᏆᏂ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᎪᏢᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎩ ᏓᏓᏴᎵᏛᏍᎬ “Pati’s ᏍᏆᏂ ᎦᏍᎩᎸ.” ᎾᎿ ᏗᎦᏃᏣᏢᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏛᏅ McClellan ᎾᎿ ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏓ. ᎠᏎᏃ ᏌᏊ ᎢᎦᏅᏅ ᎤᏲᎱᏎᎸᎢ, 629-628.

McClellan ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ “ᎤᎸᏉᏔᏅ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ,” ᏓᏏᎳᏕᏫᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏓᏅᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ “ᏄᏦᏎᏛᎾ ᎡᎲ” ᎠᎴ ᎤᏬᎯᏳ ᏓᏳᏍᏕᎸᎯᏒ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎾᏛᏁᎲᎢ. ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵᏊ ᎤᏠᏯ ᏱᏂᎦᏛᎦ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᏧᎾᏔᎾ ᎠᏂᏧᏣ.’

“ᎠᏆᏅᏔ ᎬᏩᏓᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᎨᏒ, ᎠᎴ ᎪᎯᎦ ᏂᎦᏛᏁᎰᎢ. ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏗ ᎤᏂᎩᏍᏗ ᎠᏆᏓᏍᏓᏴᏅ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

About the Author
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. 

For many years h ...
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. For many years h ...

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