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As a child, she learned to be her home's cook out of necessity. Now, she's Chef Kimberly Brave Heart

Chef Brave Heart, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, hosted a number of dishes, featuring appetizers like cold cucumber gazpacho and steak kabobs.

Chef Kimberly Brave Heart
Chef Kimberly Brave Heart at the Burke Farmers Market, Sept. 8 2022.
Cassie Williams / Mitchell Republic
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BURKE, S.D. — Burke Area Farmer’s Market hosted Chef Kimberly Brave Heart, an indigenous chef and entrepreneur, for a chef event Thursday, Sept. 8.

Chef Brave Heart, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, featured a number of dishes, featuring appetizers like cold cucumber gazpacho, steak kabobs and vegetable ratatouille, as well as wild rice chicken and pork paella.

Vegetable ratatouille, prepared by Chef Brave Heart.
Vegetable ratatouille, prepared by Chef Brave Heart.
Cassie Williams / Mitchell Republic

“The vegetable ingredients in each dish were sourced locally from area growers,” Brave Heart said at the event, noting that supporting the community is extremely important to her.

“We’ve been planning this event for over a year now,” she said, "So everything has been carefully prepared for this."

The Cornell University grad began cooking at the ripe age of 8, beginning her culinary career out of necessity to help provide for her family. Raised by a single father and older brothers, Brave Heart was charged with being the head of the household’s kitchen before she had even turned 10.

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The Pine Ridge native credits her success to her grandmother, who would give her cooking lessons and send her home every week with a new recipe to learn.

Another dish served by Chef Brave Heart.
Another dish served by Chef Brave Heart.
Cassie Williams / Mitchell Republic

“My grandma was really the inspiration behind it all,” Brave Heart said. “She would give me recipes — which I just had to perfect — and when I had it perfect, I’d come back for another and start the whole process over again.”

Chef Brave Heart explained that, from a very young age, she had learned a sense of tradition from her grandmother, what it means to have a strong work ethic and began cultivating an appreciation for beautiful presentation. She sought to make the food of her ancestors accessible in a modern and simple way, embracing her Indigenous and Jewish heritage and finding ways to connect with others through her love of cooking.

During the summers, Brave Heart's grandmother would teach her to make medicines, teas, soups and bread, as well as the Indigenous traditions that go along with cooking traditional foods. Brave Heart attributes her cautiousness with ingredients to this.

Steak kabobs served with a variety of fresh ingredients, sourced locally.
Steak kabobs prepared by Brave Heart, served with a variety of fresh ingredients that was sourced locally.
Cassie Williams / Mitchell Republic

However, her grandmother wasn't her only guide in her culinary career. Brave Heart also says some of her success stems from her father, who owned a small restaurant while she was growing up.

“My dad owned a restaurant and I was in there all the time,” Brave Heart said. “So that influenced me as well, of course.”

To date, the renowned chef and entrepreneur helped launch more than 180 small businesses across the U.S., creating a name for herself through her love of creating a soulful and healing experience through the art of cooking.

Chef Brave Heart owns a shop in Rapid City and continues her work as executive chef and caterer at her shop, Chef Brave Heart: Modern Indigenous, and her catering company, Et-i-quette Catering Company.

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Cassie Williams joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2022. To get in contact with Cassie about potential stories, feel free to email her at cwilliams@mitchellrepublic.com.
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