You’re Invited to “Oneida Cuisine: Past, Present, and Future”

An interview and event preview by Larry P. Madden Arlie Doxtator

This event is close to my heart…and belly. What’s better is that all of our loyal readers are invited too. The Oneida Communication Center and Oneida Integrated Food Systems are hosting the “Oneida Cuisine: Past, Present, and Future” event on August 23rd at 5:00 PM. Diners will gather at the Cultural Heritage Site/Salt Pork Avenue Log Homes and will learn about Oneida culture through food and story while enjoying a lovely meal.

I had the good fortune of interviewing Chef Arlie Doxtator about the event. He’s an Oneida family man who lives on the Wisconsin lands of his people. Here’s a taste of what we discussed.

LPM- When did you know the culinary arts were for you?

AD- I have always been cooking. I knew at a young age in the kitchen with Mom learning flavors, skills and techniques. I was watching cooking shows long before Ramsay or Iron Chef type of shows became popular.

LPM- Did you start in the trenches or was culinary school your route?

AD- Both. I started working in the trade early, then attended Fox Valley Technical College’s Culinary Arts program.

LPM- What’s this upcoming show about?

AD- This is an exhibition of food in an evolution of time sequences. This meal will be what I call a “Three Generation Dinner”—four courses reflecting foods from Oneida’s Pre-contact diet, then the 1830s around the arrival in the Green Bay area, the 1950s, and then the modern era.

LPM- What are the goals of this outing?

AD- To introduce Indigenous flavors into the greater Green Bay community. I’m not a labels guy, but there have always been labels between G.B. and Oneida. Food can be a bridge between cultures; something people can all relate to is a good meal. By a good meal I’m talking fine dining. I was lucky to start on the high end dining in 1988. I started at Wellington’s in Green Bay about three years after the Knowles family started the place. Most people get started at mid-level and work for a chance to get to high-end dining. I was at the right place at the right time—the Wellington was out to maintain a higher standard of dining. At the time, fine dining meant you dressed up and went to a supper club; they made a concerted choice to embark on a fine dining era right away…now everyone is doing it.

LPM- Has the traditional Indian thinking always been a part of your menu?

AD- No, it didn’t start until thirteen years ago. Out in Arizona 10 of us like-minded chefs formed the Native American Culinary Association. N.A.C.A. was all about what’s now common buzz words such as “farm-to-table” and “food sovereignty.” People like Louise Ellis Frank, Franko Lee, Carlos Bacca and a young Brian Yazee along with others decided to cook with “indigenous style.” The decolonization moment or should I say movement, started from a hard look at trying to find a healthy diet in Indian Country.

LPM- Did you see yourself as an educator before this event?

AD- Executive Chef should be teacher, mentor and headman in that order.

LPM- What’s your favorite comfort food?

AD- Corn soup, our own food, love it.

LPM- What does the future hold?

AD- I have been chosen to attend and food prep 1800s style cooking for the reading of “The Great Law” out east. That’s quite an honor. In September, we will be at the farmers’ market in G.B. making and tasting food made right off the tables.

LPM- Anything you’d like to add about the “Oneida Cuisine: Past, Present, and Future” event?

AD- We will be serving the meal at the Cultural Heritage Site, where some old homestead cabins stand near the grounds where lacrosse and theatre events are staged. Weather permitting, we will serve about 40 people outdoors, meaning there’s a limited number of tickets. Be sure and chase some down.

This bargain event will only cost you $30 a ticket, with a 50% discount for members of any tribe. You can buy your tickets on the Oneida Community Education Center website.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.