We are honored to welcome Chef Nephi Craig, BHT*, ACRPS** to Soil Regen Summit 2022. Chef Craig is the founder of The Native American Culinary Association (NACA), an organization that is dedicated to the research, refinement, and development of Native American Cuisine. He is an enrolled member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and is half Navajo. While Nephi was growing up cooking for his family and selling baked goods to his community, he was inspired by chefs that he watched on television. Continuing this childhood interest, Nephi graduated culinary school at Scottsdale Community College and gained 24 years of culinary experience in America and around the world.
After his extensive experience in the world of classical French cuisine, Nephi returned to his home in the White Mountain Apache Tribe. He now focuses on cooking, educating, and raising respect for Native Food, as well as helping his people reconnect to their food and their landscape. In an interview with NPR in 2016, Craig said “There’s no separation with you and your food, and you and your food ways, and your indigenous landscape.”
Nephi sees the mainstream American view of “Native Cuisine” as limited and trapped in the past. While he does ground his cooking in traditions of past generations, Nephi does not shy away from using familiar, modern ingredients. His goal is to provide healthy, nutritious food, but he has no interest in shaming or alienating those that he cooks for. Grounding the food in both the modern landscape and in the genetic history of his community is intended to comfort and restore.
Another focus of Nephi’s mission as a chef is to reintroduce the healing potential of food: this was at the center of any recovery process in Native lives for generations. Nephi explains in an interview with Native News Online, “when they say you’re trying to get clean, you’re trying to get sober, trying to reconstruct your life, you can’t do the work unless your own house is in order. And usually that means — your body first…” His desire to help in the recovery process of his tribe led Nephi to become the Nutritional Recovery Program Coordinator as well as the Executive Chef at the Rainbow Treatment Center and Café Gozhóó on the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona.
What is Café Gozhóó?
The mission of “Café Gozhóó is an Apache response to our community need for quality food options, a fueling station on the north end of Whiteriver and to promote/reinforce social recovery in a community space.”
As a part of the Rainbow Treatment Center’s substance abuse treatment programs, the Café provides opportunities for personal and community healing. The healthy foods Nephi creates from humble, local, and Indigenous ingredients are only one part of the “menu.” Additionally, lessons in traditional arts and crafts which revolve around food gathering and preparation are part of Café Gozhóó’s offerings. Basketmaking and other crafts provide not only a connection to the plants in the landscape, but also therapeutic and centering activities. Finally, opportunities to gain work experience and vocational skills are offered at the Café. This process of professional development aids in preventing relapses and learning to build relationships while working towards wellness.
There are also plans to expand Café Gozhóó to sell local seeds and produce, and to revive the gas pumps outside the station that houses the Café. We look forward to following the evolution of this vital community hub!
Chef Nephi Craig’s Focus at Soil Regen Summit 2022
On Day 2 of Soil Regen Summit 2022, Nephi will present “Psychology of Indigenous Food, Landscape and Eating.” In this talk, he will share an Indigenous paradigm on food, landscape, and public health. Nephi will also outline practitioner pathways toward ethical practices in relationship building, standards of care, and cultural resurgence. In addition to a lecture session, Nephi will do a cooking demonstration!
We hope you’ll join us for his presentation at Soil Regen Summit 2022, as well as the live panel and meet-n-greet sessions he’ll take part in the same day. We look forward to learning more about Chef Nephi Craig’s work.
Soil Regen Summit 2022: Farming for the Future is live on March 15-18. www.soilregensummit.com
* Behavioral Health Technician
**Advanced Certified Relapse Prevention Specialist
Header photograph of quality Indigenous food courtesy of Nephi Craig.
Heather lives on a 4-acre homestead in the Willamette Valley of Oregon with her husband and a bunch of leafy, feathered, furry, and wooly macroorganisms. (Plus, of course, countless microorganisms.) She has a BSc in Environmental Education from Western Washington University and loves learning and writing about the science of the natural world.