« Gil L. Vigil, Executive Director, Eight Northern Indian Pueblos, Inc. | Main | Kevin Brown, Chief of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe »

August 15, 2013

Who won the 2013 Living Earth Festival Native Chef cooking competition? Everyone who loves blueberries!

This year’s fourth annual Living Earth Festival Native Chef cooking competition began at 12 noon on July 21, 2013, and featured the talents of Chef Freddie Bitsoie (Diné) from Phoenix, Arizona, and Chef Don McClellan (Cherokee) from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Chef Freddie is an independent chef and a scholar of food and culture. Chef Don is executive chef with Cherokee Nation Entertainment in northeastern Oklahoma (and also my son). The special ingredient to be used in each of two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts is blueberries, a fruit native to the Americas. In previous years the competition has featured other foods indigenous to this hemisphere, including green chiles, the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash), and heirloom tomatoes. 

Traditionally Native Americans used blueberries in ceremonies; as food—fresh or dried, alone or combined with other foods; infused as tea; and to trade to other Natives who did not have access to blueberries.

Both cooking teams
The two teams. Don McClellan is 2nd from the left. Freddie Bitsoie is in the light gray smock, third from the right.

The chefs at this year’s competition were assisted by culinary students from L’Academie de Cuisine here in Washington, DC.  Chef Freddie Bitsoie was also assisted by sous-chef Wilma Consul, and Chef Don McClellan was assisted by sous-chef Carlos Castanedas. Karen Saunders (Red Lake Nation Band of Chippewa Indians), Red Lake, Minnesota; Jerome Grant, sous-chef for the museum’s Mitsitam Café; and Patricia Fields-Alexander (Pawnee Creek) from Muskogee, Oklahoma, judged the competition.

Chef Freddie plating cheesecake dessertChef Don plating salmon dish
Left: Chef Freddie Bitsoie and his team get ready to present their miniature blueberry cheesecakes. Right: Chef Don McClellan and his team plate Coca-Cola BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper, corn, and blueberry salsa.

For the appetizers, Chef Don prepared classic gazpacho but substituted blueberries for the tomatoes; for his second appetizer he made blueberry corn fritters (recipe below). Chef Freddie prepared Kwakiutl-style crab fritters with blueberries and mixed greens and a blueberry-glazed shrimp appetizer with Navajo corn. For the entrees, Chef Don prepared Coca-Cola BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper, corn, and blueberry salsa (recipe below), and roast duck breast atop sweet potato and blueberry puree with grilled asparagus; while Chef Freddie prepared posole with blueberries (recipe below) and pan-seared mahi mahi with blueberry sauce, served with a bean ragout. For dessert Chef Don prepared a parfait of fresh blueberries with crème fraiche and blueberry cinnamon fry bread topped with fresh blueberries, while Chef Freddie prepared fresh blueberries with a blueberry syrup glaze and a blueberry cheesecake (recipe below). 

Three judges
Judges Karen Saunders (Red Lake Nation Band of Chippewa Indians), Jerome Grant; and Patricia Fields-Alexander (Pawnee Creek).
After all of the dishes had been taste-tested by our panel of three judges, everyone’s attention turned to the two folks charged with tallying the results. After several minutes the scores were complete, and the winner of this year’s Native Chef Cooking Competition was Chef Freddie Bitsoie. In spite of the intense outdoor heat everyone participating had a great time. Our thanks go out to all of the many volunteers and sponsors who made this year’s competition such a huge success.

Chefs congratulating each other

Chefs Don McClellan and Freddie Bitsoie congratulate each other on a wonderful competition.

The chefs generously shared four of their best blueberry-centric recipes. I hope you enjoy them.

—Carolyn McClellan

Carolyn McClellan (Cherokee Nation) is the Assistant Director, Community and Constituent Services, of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

All photos are by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.

To see a video fo the competition, scroll past the recipes below. To browse all the videos from Living Earth Festival , visit the museum's YouTube channel.

Blueberry corn fritters 
Chef Don McClellan 

1 dozen ears of corn on the cob, husked 
4 oz flour 
2 oz sugar 
1½ tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper 
2 eggs, beaten 
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded 
8 oz fresh blueberries

1. Cut the kernels from the cob. Scrape well to release all milk.

2. Blend the dry ingredients.

3. Add the corn, eggs, and cheese. Mix to make a batter. Fold in blueberries.

4. Heat oil to 350°F and drop the batter by spoonfuls into the hot oil. 

5. Fry until golden on all sides. Allow to drain.

Serve immediately.

Makes 30 fritters.

Posole with blueberries
Chef Freddie Bitsoie

3 tbl oil
1 lb pork butt, diced
2 tbl paprika
2 tbl cumin
1 to 2 cups red chile, pureed
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz tomato sauce
2 cups cooked hominy
1 cup fresh blueberries
28 oz chicken stock
Bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 lime, zest and juice
Cilantro (for garnish)

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil and season with salt and pepper; sear pork till skin forms, then remove.

2. Sweat onion, thyme, and bay leaf in pot.

3. Add paprika, cumin, lime zest, and lime juice.

4. Add pork, garlic, tomato sauce, pureed red chile, and chicken stock.

5. Simmer till meat is tender.

6. Add hominy and fresh blueberries and adjust seasoning.

7. Garnish with cilantro. 

Makes 4 servings.

BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper and corn salsa 
Chef Don McClellan

Coca-Cola BBQ sauce

3 oz unsalted butter
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized yellow onion, minced
1½ cups ketchup
½ cup cider vinegar
¾ cup light brown sugar 
2 tbl Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup tomato paste
3 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp kosher salt
Ground black pepper as needed
12 oz (1 can) Coca-Cola 

1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions and cook until translucent and soft (approx. 6 to 8 minutes). 

2. Add tomato paste and cook until sauce begins to caramelize (approx. 3 to 4 minutes).

3. Add ketchup, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle powder, salt, pepper, and Coca-Cola. Bring to a simmer and allow sauce to cook and thicken, approx 30 to 40 minutes. 

4. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate until use. 

Makes 2 cups 

Roasted red pepper and corn salsa 

2 red peppers, roasted and julienned
1 roma tomato, diced                        
¼ cup red onion, diced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
 ½ cup blueberries, fresh
1 lime, juiced 
½ lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the salsa together.

Allow flavors to develop by making at least 30 minutes prior to service; for best results make 24 hours in advance. 

BBQ glazed salmon

2 6-oz salmon filets, skin removed 
4 oz Coca-Cola BBQ sauce
Vegetable oil as needed (approx. 2 tbl)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Season salmon with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a medium-sized sauté pan over high heat; pour in oil. Place salmon in pan skin side up; regulate the heat so as not to get the pan too hot. (If you see continual smoke from the pan, reduce the heat). 

3. Allow salmon to cook in pan until you see the edges start to turn an opaque orange color, rather than the vibrant orange raw color (approx. 4 to 5 minutes).

4. Turn salmon over and immediately brush the seared side with BBQ sauce. 

5. Cover the sauté pan with a lid and continue cooking until the salmon is done (approx. 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness). 

6. Remove pan from heat and brush more BBQ sauce liberally over salmon. 

7. Place salmon on plate and top with approx. 3 to 4 oz of salsa. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 6-oz servings. 

Recipe can be served with any starch of your choice: mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, roasted sweet potatoes, couscous, or wild rice. 

Blueberry cheesecake 
Chef Freddie Bitsoie 

1 ½ cup finely ground graham-cracker crumbs
6 tbl butter, melted
1/3 cup agave
4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. dark chocolate, grated (keep cool to avoid melting)
½ cup frozen blueberries
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/3 cup agave
1 packet gelatin (7g)

1. In a small springform pan mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 1/3 cup of agave and press into the bottom of the pan, forming a crust.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream the cheese, blueberries, lemon zest and juice, and 1/3 cup of agave together.

3. Bloom the gelatin with boiling water; set it aside to cool slightly ( keep the gelatin warm enough to stay liquid).

4. In another bowl, whip the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.

5. Fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture.

6. Add the grated chocolate.

7. Pour in the gelatin.

8. Stir the cheese mixture until it is one color, then pour it into the springform pan

9. Cover with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and allow to set for about 4 hours.

Makes 1 small cheesecake (4 to 6 servings). 

The fourth annual Living Earth Festival Native Chef Cooking Competition at the National Museum of the American Indian. Washington, DC, July 2013. 


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Who won the 2013 Living Earth Festival Native Chef cooking competition? Everyone who loves blueberries!:


I love blueberries dish's but i also like that type of group discussion topics. I read your 4 article but i like what you said about "s food—fresh or dried, alone or combined with other foods; infused as tea; and to trade to other Natives who did not have access to blueberries.", I have also been experimenting with pressure on blueberries dish's and beans but i still struggle to get it right..........

GREAT!! Cooking is absolutely my life. And i really thank yo guys for posting and sharing all this stuff all in one blog. I love blueberries and this,Posole with blueberries is I guess a must try. I will surely try it all out. Perfect recipes for my sister's wedding, good food for all, plus a nice wedding entertainment...A total AWESOME.

Thanks for sharing...

The comments to this entry are closed.