Bringing Native American food to the forefront in Broken Arrow
By John Dobberstein, Editor
Broken Arrow is a suburb where people are clamoring for more dining choices. There are Mexican restaurants, pizza joints and chicken shacks a plenty.
But lately it appears that Broken Arrow is taking a step forward in culinary adventures with successful eateries like Trang Le, Pho 71, Keo and Tandoori Guys. Even the recently opened Supermercados Morelos supermarket is working to introduce authentic Mexican food and culture to Broken Arrow.
Another ethnic culinary destination, Nātv, recently hosted its grand opening on S. Main St. Nātv is a farm-to-table restaurant co-owned by Ricky and Jacque Siegfried.
Jacque, the executive chef and heart and soul of the restaurant, got into culinary work when she was very young. “My grandma did pastries and I fell in love with food at like age 4 or 5. I was like, ‘I want to own McDonald's. How do I own McDonald's? I want to be that chef?’
“And my Dad said, ‘Well, maybe let's learn how to cook something first.’ In my household, you could cook dinner or you could do dishes. And I was like, ‘I don't want to do dishes. So I'll learn how to cook.’
“I would make food pretty much every night that I could and started creating recipes and making different fusion things. I really like spicy food but I would still want to eat a French dish.”
To help enrich her love of the culinary arts Jacque enrolled in Nathan Hale High school for their culinary and hospitality program. After finishing high school she began studying at Platt College where she learned the classic study of culinary arts from knife-cutting techniques to the creation of elaborate dishes.
Then it was on to Cedar Ridge Country Club, where she exceled at buffets, banquets and preparing for service. After several years there she moved on to the Mayo Hotel in downtown Tulsa after one of her previous chefs went there. Jacque was later asked to run the Boiler Room restaurant and eventually their catering operation.
After that she moved on to be the sous chef at the Tulsa Club Hotel and was offered the executive chef position 2 months later.
A door opens
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit much of her support staff was let go and she stayed on – but that meant handling all of the food and beverage operations. “I did their front of the house, the back of the house, their caterings and anything else I could do. Everybody was wearing many, many hats at that time,” Jacque said.
“But I realized I was doing 90, 100 hours a week and I didn’t get to see my friends, or see my family, or do sleeping anymore. And my husband said, ‘Well, you've always wanted a restaurant. So why don't we start looking into it?’”
The couple had enough money saved up to put money into the idea. They started looking for locations and then found their current location at 1611 S. Main Street, where the owner had just walked out on his lease.
The Siegfrieds spent about a year cleaning up the building, as it had sat idle for 9 months. They tore down oddly placed walls, rehabbed the kitchen to get it up to code, finished the floor and laid down tile.
As they were discussing an opening date for their venture, flooding rains last January caused the roof to cave in onto the kitchen. After working with the insurance company to get repairs made they finally held their grand opening.
‘What does your heart say?’
In a city that jokingly has a “Fried Chicken District“ with its own Facebook page, Native American cuisine hasn’t been the centerpiece of any restaurant.
But for Jacque, this venture is a dream come true. “My grandfather was Shawnee and that whole side of the family is, and I was really interested in the food and the culture of it when I was younger,” she said. “Because we used to go to powwows and we were very involved in that.
“And then I turned into a teenager. And like all teenagers, I didn’t want to do things with my family. I wanted to go hang out with my friends and go to the school dance and do all the cool things.
“So I did. And then I kind of started just going into culinary and I was like, I want to do French food. It's very strict. It's a lot of rules. It's beautiful. How do I do this? So I was like, let's go ahead and go to school for it. Let's start working these jobs.”
In the throes of working those 90-hour weeks, Jacque was mulling over concepts for a restaurant and Ricky asked her, “What's the one that speaks to you the most. What does your heart say?”
Native American cuisine was the answer. Over the years she accumulated and read through cookbooks and studied Native American culinary concepts.
“Now I'm in the position where I can bring some of those flavors that I've been intrigued by and very curious about and start incorporating it in my own food, into an actual dining setting where people could come in and try something that they hadn't had,” Jacque said. “That has been super amazing.”
‘Three’ sisters and more
There is a foundation of Native American cooking but it’s not widely known by most. One is the “three sisters” of corn, squash and beans, which in their culture is grown together to take advantage of synergies the plants provide to each other.
The restaurant is also working with local farms to obtain ingredients that are needed, and they visit the farmer’s market.
Nātv’s menu features corn cakes, bison filet, sunchoke gnocchi, seared duck breast and trout, vegan succotash, bison “poyha” or meatloaf, bison sliders and a three-sisters stew with corn, squash, black beans, onion and frybread.
Jacque wants to move Native American food beyond stereotypes.
“People think of Indian tacos and those are great. They are,” she explained. “But there's also a lot of lean meat. There's a lot of smoked meat and cured meat that we love, but we don't love it in the same way that we might love pizza,” Jacque says. “Everybody knows what pizza is. Not everybody knows what a smoked Alaskan salmon tastes like because they might have only gotten it from Reasor’s.
“But I can incorporate some of those flavors because we work with actual native owned tribes that have retail so they can send us the fish that they catch in Alaska. And that money goes to them instead and it’s helping a society that we are kind of lost that foundation with.
“So that's what we're truly trying to focus on doing here is incorporating those flavors and being able to give back to that community and bring some respect for the food itself into the forefront.”