Indigenous Food Culture With Chef Elena Terry

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CulturallyOurs Podcast Indigenous Cuisine With Chef Elena Taylor

Season 06
Season 06
Indigenous Food Culture With Chef Elena Terry
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Show Details

In this episode Karthika talks about indigenous cuisine with Chef Elena Taylor of Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk nation. Chef Elena talks about how foods can heal, foods can nourish – not just the people who is eating but also the person who is cooking it and how food is a vessel for bringing people together. She talks about how the indigenous food movement is one of healing and helping break down barriers and connect one another despite all our collective struggles.

Show Notes

Karthika talks about indigenous cuisine with Chef Elena Taylor of Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk nation. Chef Elena talks about how foods can heal, foods can nourish – not just the people who is eating but also the person who is cooking it and how food is a vessel for bringing people together. She also talked about ancestral seeds and how they are such an integral part of preserving our country’s history and narratives. Seeds that are passed down from generation to generation can keep the story going forward and help us connect to our past so beautifully. She says every ingredient has a destiny and people (growers) who help it along its journey deserve our utmost respect.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome chef Elena. Thank you so much for joining me on culturally yards. I am so very excited to have you on the podcast and I can’t wait to chat with you. Get to know you a little bit better and just get in, get to know your kind of the world a little bit better.

Chef Elena: Yes. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Karthika: Absolutely. So before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, just to help set the stage for our chat?

Chef Elena: Sure. So, I’m Elena Terry. I am a chef out of Wisconsin, Dells, Wisconsin. I’m a member of the Ho-Chunk nation and I’ve been cooking my entire life, but professionally around 12 years or so.

Karthika: Okay. So, talk to me a little bit about sort of your food journey. I know you mentioned you’ve been cooking your whole life, but professionally as a chef for 12 years, what made you kind of move away and more into the professional realm?

Chef Elena: I think it’s just been this deep connection that I’ve always had with our food. I’ve always enjoyed the movement of kitchens and it’s just been for me a great path of healing and reconnecting to myself and my spirit and just really being able to trust the journey of something that I am passionate about doing and believing in where it takes me is where I’m supposed to be.

Karthika: Wow. Okay. So talk to me a little bit about sort of your cooking style. I know you said food does healing and it’s your guiding spirit is guiding you. So where do you get your inspiration in terms of the dishes that you make the ingredients, and I know I came across you a what less than a month ago when you fed us your amazing food at event in Wisconsin. So talk to me a little bit, sort of about your process if you will.

Chef Elena: Sure. So I began as a young girl cooking with my grandmother and my great-grandmother and for us, it was really for me coming from a very large family, it was a time where I could spend one-on-one time with these incredible matriarchs that I just idolized. And if it was going to pick a certain plant or if it was processing an animal, all of it had a very deep spiritual connection for me. Like there was, it wasn’t just do this. It was explained like we are honoring this animal who’s going to provide for us, or these plants are ready right now. So we’re going to take this day off and go get them. And there was always, it was a priority obviously, to feed your family and, and to care for everything as much as it was caring for you and to really make sure that there were prayers involved and mindfulness and intention and cooking, and that started from sourcing those ingredients.

Chef Elena: My entire life I’ve always really enjoyed going to our ceremonies or religious functions and supporting, people who are really trying to be better for themselves with these incredibly nourishing meals that even if I could contribute a little bit, I’ve benefited from the process. And so it kind of was something that was always a part of my life. And then I worked in a corporate restaurant for quite some time. And I absolutely loved that atmosphere as well because it was constant movement. And I got to learn a lot about the technicalities and, you know, the, the regulations for food and stuff. And one day I just decided that I didn’t want to live in these two worlds. I wanted to do what I love doing with the food and ingredients that I loved being around and making that shift changed everything for me.

Chef Elena: And it really helped me not only get grounded and appreciate my surroundings and the space that I was in, but it also connected me to all these people that were doing similar work on whatever level, you know, as a chef. I always say that I have the best job because I am the last person to speak for these ingredients. And I get to have these friendships and these relationships for all the people that helped me source these incredible ingredients that it just is this incredible, beautiful community of people doing similar work in these areas that they love being in, if it’s growing or fishing or hunting or cooking, you know, it’s all about supporting each other and then being able to make this incredible plate of food from it.

Karthika: Oh, wow. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, when you were talking, I was just thinking back to when I was growing up. So my mom’s grandmother, I guess my great-grandmother, I never met her. She passed away about a month or so before I was born, but I remember my mom saying that she would have a bath early in the morning, like 4.30. And my mom came from a really big family and they all live together. And she would have a bath and in her kind of wet clothes, I guess it’s as a very Indian thing to do. She would cook the meals in wearing those wet clothes because having a bath is kind of like purifying yourself and she wanted to have that. There are vibes and energy when making food for the family and we’re talking about 15, 20 people in the house and, she would take an hour or so, and in those wet clothes, but then that was for very spiritual and all the energy and the vibes that she was chanting while she was cooking, and stuff would go into the food.

Karthika: So, she would make the best food, the purest form of food for her family. When you were talking about being a part of the ceremony and using enriching ingredients to better yourself. I kind of just thought about that story.

Chef Elena: That’s a great sense of connection to so much more and, and putting those good feelings into that food, you can’t help, but nourish people differently. You know, we don’t even cook if we’re not feeling good or in that frame of mind, then maybe it’s a day for us to, to enjoy the meal and to eat it and to consume it. Maybe we need the nourishment differently, but it is a very spiritual process for me as well. And I love hearing that I think it’s something that it’s cross-cultural. It’s something from different spaces and we are all consumers in some way, we all must eat and it’s how we choose to do that. That can change everything for us.

Karthika: Absolutely. And we’re somewhere deep down, we’re all even interconnected, right? I mean, there’s so many different cultures around the world, but if you really dig down and you kind of try to find these little narratives, so there’s so much of similarity, there’s so much of overlap. It might not be the exact same thing, but the concept is there the concept of food, as you know, something that’s nourishing the concept of kind of really caring for the environment or caring for the ingredients where they come or being mindful. Like you said, when you harvest an animal, what are you getting out of that it’s just that there’s so many other complexities and layers. We think that they are two different scenarios – your world verses my world. But that’s not true. Well, anyway, I digress. So, tell me a little bit about what are your favorite dishes to make and maybe to eat if they’re not the same or maybe they are the same?

Chef Elena: I think that’s a loaded question. For me. I think it just is the day, I feel like every meal that I make is my newest favorite meal. You know, there are definitely comfort foods that I, I feel a little bit more connected to, but, uh, it it’s these ingredients. I keep going back to it because I do cook with our indigenous foods being a native American. And I know for the meal, I cooked for you guys. I talked about my good friend Jack and this wild rice that he provides. It’s one of my favorite bites in the whole world. And it’s not because it’s so distinctly different from other wild rice, but it’s from Jack, my good friend who’s a tribal elder from Northern Minnesota who goes out and harvest with his grandsons and teaches them how to traditionally do that and traditionally process it.

Chef Elena: And it’s just every time I have that rice, I think of him and it, you know, you can’t help, but feel good knowing that that is continuing. And that, by me, being able to have this racist is proving that it will not only be there for me and my children, but his grandchildren will continue those traditions on. And I think that every time I come across a new ingredient like that, I, it’s very important for me to find the story of the source and to know the people. And it becomes that much more valuable to my spirit when I have those meals. We talk about comfort foods and I think every culture has their own kind of food that it doesn’t have to be this multi-course fancy meal. It’s the comfort that comes from these foods that connect.

Chef Elena: And so for me, I can’t really say that I have a favorite dish because I feel like that’s constantly changing based on the day and what’s available. And you know, when you talk about harvesting or foraging your foods, which is a very strong component of the work that I do, it’s going out and finding that and getting grounded and spending the time to care for those plants that is comforting for me. And so it’s really what can I provide for you that is going to make you feel that same kind of connection from a bite? And those are my favorite meals.

Karthika: And the wild rice was incredible. It was so delicious and I’m a rice eater. I had never tasted anything like it and you’re so right. It’s the association with the narrative that makes it even more special. If it was put in front of me without context, I would be like, oh yeah, this is really great. It’s delicious. But when there is that narrative and that story and your passion in talking about the story, as well as preparing it and presenting it in such a beautiful way, it just solidifies that connection so much more. It’s like something coming out of you and really connecting on a very soul to soul emotional sort of a level. And that makes it even more special. So talk to me about comfort food. You kind of alluded to this a little bit. Well, I know for me, comfort food is something that is more like memories as well as like the actual dish, but I want to know what is comfort food for you and sort of what are your comfort foods?

Chef Elena: Yeah, for me, I absolutely love corn and not in a sense, like a sweet corn that you would get at the end of summer, although that is incredibly delicious and I would love it, but the corn that we grow. We have ancestral corn that those seeds have maintained their genetics and their purity for centuries, and they connect us to ceremonies. And those are the times that I remember having them as a child and now being able to have people grow that same corn for me and process it the way that I used to process it with my grandma, all I can think of is in the middle of winter, making a soup with root vegetables and squash in that corn. And knowing that that corn I processed with my child and my grandma, and we sat outside around the fire and, and took time to have these conversations about, remember this, or remember when I was young, and my grandmother had me do that.

Chef Elena: And in being able to say, like, even though I might not physically be able to be with her in the winter that we cared for this corn together, and the soup is so nourishing, you know, I mean, I can eat soup any day soup in the winter when you have those, those vegetables that hold a little bit more, or my favorite ingredient is squash. And I really feel like it’s underutilized because there’s so many different varieties with so many different textures. That’s a whole other kind of comfort for me is just being able to have access to all of those things and being able to combine all of that into a bowl, into a bite like that, that would probably be my favorite. And I don’t think it is even consistent. You can add any kind of meat or any extra supplements or seasonings. But when you have those bases and like the corn and the squash or the beans, you can make all these incredibly comforting, but deeply nourishing meals. And those are my favorites. I think we do eat a lot of soup in our ceremonies also. And I think it just brings me to that space.

Karthika: Yup. That makes sense. Now, you talked about this when we met, you have a non-for-profit called Wild Bearies. Can you talk a little bit about what it is and sort of, what was your motivation for starting this?

Chef Elena: Yeah, so Wild Berries is constantly evolving, but it did start as a community outreach way to bring people from my community back to our community, through food. So the participants in Wild Berries are our people overcoming alcohol and other drug abuse issues or emotional traumas, which I feel is a great umbrella because we have all been affected in some way by these things. I don’t think anybody at this point in our lives and in this point in the world is exempt from those very broad relations. And I’ve always viewed food as this beautiful vessel. You know, it can transport you to different times and places, but it can also bring people together in these incredible ways. And so we started by doing catering in our community and having participants come and help prepare these meals and then be able to stand behind these meals and feeding and sharing and building community.

Chef Elena: And then it just evolved from there into agriculture and gardens and community growing spaces. And just saying that without judgment, we all have struggles in life, but food is a wonderful way to share and to break down barriers and to really take pride, not only in our culture, but in our space within the community. And I’d have to say for me, I am the first Wild Bearies. I was the first one that came back to my community through food and being able to represent myself by sharing in that way and providing meals. And so it’s just been this wonderful journey and I I can’t wait to see how much more we’re able to build up our food security, our food sovereignty and our community through these efforts of the participants in Wild Bearies. And it isn’t exclusive to Native Americans either. We have Wild Bearies that are non-native, that are just there to support and to really be connected on the way that we’re able to do that.

Karthika: I love how you call them Wild Bearies. It just brings a smile on my face and my mind goes to a different space when I think of a person in this program as a Wild Berry, because there’s so much beauty in that.

Chef Elena: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of growing. I mean, for myself, I can only speak for myself, but for, for me, there’s been a lot of growth in, in being able to say, we all have these imperfections, but there are also these universal things that we face just as humans in today’s world and making small mindful changes can change these small ripples turn into giant waves of change. And I’m blessed to be able to witness that and not only with myself, but with other participants and community members that have been connected through these meals or through growing community. And it’s just, it’s wonderful. I really do blessed for it.

Karthika: Amazing. Now you are a big proponent of this whole seed to table movement. You talked about this earlier as well. Can you share a little bit about this project and maybe some of the success stories that you’ve had with this whole seed to table movement?

Chef Elena: Yeah. So if I really want to be authentic and have these meals, which is our end goal, it isn’t something that we can achieve right now today. It’s a slow foods movement. When you have people growing your food, cause I can’t go to the store and buy what I want these ingredients are very hard to come by. And I do have people grow specifically for me to be able to have that. And so if I want that ancestral corn, I have to plan that a year, two years, three years ahead. So that I’ll have enough, not only enough for me, but enough for my community. And not just for myself and my family, my immediate community, but also the greater communities that we live in. And so seed to table is really saying some of these seeds are protected and only have certain people grow them.

Chef Elena: I have different people growing that for me. And it’s keeping the integrity of that plant. So that it doesn’t get crossed with something that would be a GMO modified or different kinds of changes. So it’s very mindful and planned out, what I have grown and then the people that grow it. And it’s, it’s wonderful because I feel like we all do have this space in our food systems and we all do relate on to a different area, whatever that might be. And the people that I have growing for me are these, I, I am so appreciative that they’re doing the work that they’re doing because without them doing that and having the passion that they do, I would never be able to do my job the way that I want to do it. And so it’s really supporting each other and saying, if you grow it, I will buy it or I will get it sourced out for you just to support what you’re doing. Sometimes its an even greater struggle for them, especially with all the environmental issues that we’ve had to face and being able to maintain the integrity of that pure seed. It really is something that if I have a way to use my voice to support the work that’s being done, agriculturally, not just in my area, but across the nation to shift our food systems, then I will stand up and speak as loud as I can, because I think that it’s a underappreciated job. And for me, it’s crucial that they continue the work that they’re doing. And I think that we all need to stop and, and look at where our food is coming from.

Karthika: I remember you talking about somebody who a squash or was it a bean that came from the Midwest and traveled to the west. And then it came back to the Midwest and I was just imagining this whole journey. And, you know, if it had a voice, oh, my, the stories it could tell, right?

Chef Elena: I mean, it kind of does. It does have a voice and it’s able to communicate that with us when we cook it. And when we provide it for our community or for these meals that we have, and that it’s able to fulfill its destiny. We believe that it came to us for a reason to provide this unique nourishment and, and we must protect those seeds. And when they grow the flavors, they provide the nutrition they provide. That’s one thing. But the spiritual nourishment, knowing the resilience of that tiny little beam and being able to, so these beans, the one that you’re talking about it, we knew that we had grown. We have archeological spots that have proven that our people had raised garden beds a thousand years ago in our area that we had were cultivators, not just hunters and foragers and those seeds, like I said, the corn or the bean, they connect us not only to ceremony, but to a time that was long ago. And add to the strength of our ancestors during that time. Those seeds are living beings that I like to think of as are in this long slumber, until you wake them up, when you plant them, plant them with prayers and intention, they grow to be these incredible, beautiful plants with the vegetables or the fruits that show up. It’s a beautiful process. And that’s why I say I absolutely love my growers. Our Winnebago squash came back to us a few years ago. And we were thinking about how we had to have had a bean, right? The three sisters grow together, the corn, the bean and the squash. And so we reached out to all these different places where we thought this bean ancestral bean might exist.

Chef Elena: And all of a sudden it came to me, it was mailed by my friend from Kentucky. His name is Chris and his grandfather was a seed steward. And then his father was one. And that just means that they kind of protected those seeds, grow them out periodically to make sure that they would still be alive and fresh. He said, oh, I knew you were Ho-Chunk. And I had this seed. And when I opened it up, it was this beautiful bean. And on the package, it was this very detailed history of where that bean had been grown. And it was all of the places that our tribe had been moved from during the removals several hundred years ago. And that bean had provided for us. So it was in Wisconsin to South Dakota, to Wisconsin, to Nebraska, and it had all these details of its journey. And then it came home to us. So we call that repatriating. I like to think that that seed kind of said, it’s time and I am ready. So I’m going back. And so last year was the first year that seed was grown. And when I say like, slow food is an understatement. I’m hoping that in three to five years, we’ll be able to have that on a level where I will have some seeds to grow and then another several years, and we’ll be able to have enough seed to share with our community to grow. So it is something that we’re thinking. It might not be for me. But my grandchildren will have this seed in them know that that seed brought me hope. And in continuity knowing that they will see us being able to overcome these struggles with the nourishment that one tiny little bean gave us and how much it planted in my heart, you know?

Karthika: Yes. Generally people we think about what we want to pass on to our children, maybe money or property. But you are thinking about something so much more beautiful. It’s this hope and this ancestral knowledge that you want to pass down. You know it’s probably not for you, but then you’re still continuing on doing it because it’s going to be beneficial to your children and your grandchildren. That’s a beautiful thought.

Chef Elena: I think like we have said it is something that transcends cultural lines. My sous chef for Wild Berries is actually an African American. And he was able to go back to Africa and connect with some of his original food. When he came back, there was this just wonderful new inspiration in him. And we were able to actually track down some seeds. Some of these seeds for ingredients that helped our cultures provide for each other. You know, there was a time in history where natives and the black community had to rely on each other. Some are forced nomads and some are forced cultivators. And without those partnerships, we wouldn’t have been able to continue to be able to support in the way that we did. And because of that, these incredible news food sources birthed from, from there. And so one of those things is this arikara watermelon that was gifted to us. And it’s something that we’re all growing out this year. And it came from a time when the Arikara people had to be moved. And the Africans had brought the watermelons. When I say that our seeds had to be saved by being sewn into our clothes, the Africans had to weave those seeds into their hair because they didn’t even have those things to sew them into. And knowing that that watermelon seed came back to us now and we’re able to grow it, it kind of brings me back to a time of great strength and resilience and being able to really look out for each other. And I felt like after everything that happened last year, it was the most beautiful thing that this little watermelon seed came back to us and really said that in standing in solidarity and supporting each other, we can overcome, and we can get this beautiful strength.

Karthika: Yes, you are so right. When you say that food and community are so interconnected, there is so much even beyond the surface. They kind of rely on each other and they kind of support each other. How do you see the indigenous food culture making its mark on like the bigger community and maybe both within the indigenous sphere as well as kind of outside in like the broader community that we live in?

Chef Elena: Well, I think that there’s a lot of education that happens, and it’s just that mindfulness of where your food comes from and how greatly that stretches into our environment, into our communities. You know, we can’t source wild rice. It won’t grow the same way in our area. I’m from the great lakes region. If the water temperature is wrong, or if there’s pollutants in the water, then it will not grow. There’s a lot of activism going out to try and preserve and protect our waterways. And that trickles down to our food systems and our livelihood. And I feel like when we are a little bit more aware of that, and I’m kind of blessed in this way too, to have this indigenous knowledge, because we do get our food from the land. Traditionally, you know, it wasn’t something that we mass produced. It was something very valuable. And I think that when we can shift our consumption and to be a little bit more aware of how greatly we are affecting our environment, it makes a big difference. And when I say that, I don’t just mean the earth that we walk on and our environment. I also mean our family and the people that we are around every day and interact with and the way those interactions happen. I’m not saying that everything needs to change right now, but for me, I’d like to be an example of what change can do. You know, I was a very unhealthy person. I was in an unhealthy relationship. I was driving through and eating very fast paced, very non-nutritional food. And it took a toll on my spirit. And when I stopped and said, I have got to be better than this, everything changed. The way I walked on the earth, the way I would ground myself from being in the woods.

Chef Elena: And then these wonderful food started coming back into my life that I remembered from being a child and having these pure joy memories of being with my grandmother, my great grandmother, and being able to close my eyes. And remember that time that I spent with them from the smell of the trees or the way the grass felt, it was so much more, it opened up my heart, my mind, it made me feel so much better. So for me, being able to connect on that way, I feel like we all have that ability to do once we stop and do it. I mean, I still go through the through the drive through once in a while. I do not beat myself up about it anymore, because sometimes, you know, it’s what has to be done in our culture. And even with my work, I’m on the road a lot, but it makes me value those other meals that much more.

Chef Elena: I think that when we can make that shift and be just slightly more mindful, I mean, everybody making that, it goes back to that ripple, turning into a giant wave of change and saying that we need to be better so that our children have that option even so that my grandchildren will be able to say, I know what wild rice tastes like, because our water’s cleaner than it was when my grandma was here. You know, being able to say that it’s not about me, but it’s about them. And how can I show them how to heal? Because we all will come across these emotional traumas at some point in our life. That’s what life is. How can we do that? And one thing, like I said, I’m absolutely blessed to be able to say, I’m a chef. And I’m the one that speaks the last word for these ingredients before they end up on your plate or in your mouth. And to say that all of this intention and thoughtfulness was put into this meal and hopes that you’ll appreciate it on the same way that I do, maybe make those small changes because when we can shift, we can make a great deal of difference in our world. And I think we need to look at the greater picture and howwe shouldn’t be isolated from each other and all of us can make these small changes, no matter what space we walk in.

Karthika: So beautifully said chef Elena. So as a follow-up to that, how can people like me, or who are listening to your interview support you and your mission of connecting communities to indigenous cuisine? What can we do that can help that to help?

Chef Elena: I think educating yourself is a huge deal because every space in the United States has indigenous people that are native to that area that are still there. We are all still here. And I think it’s just realizing that we can support each other if it’s going to the local farmer’s market that work needs to be supported. And when you do that and you support those local growers, it is part of our community and it is helping ensure that that work will continue. And we don’t have to go to these mass GMO farms to source our foods, or it’s saying that I want to be part of a local cleanup in the park, or I want to be able to remove these invasive species that have come in. And it happens all over the country in these small spaces. My friend in California participates in the indigenous red market. There are all these different places where you can go to support the work that’s being done, even if it’s going to the American Indian foods program or the intertribal agriculture council and purchasing some of these ingredients and opening your mind to trying that, because that supports the local or the indigenous economies and the people continuing that work to provide for those food sources. So I really think that the first step is about educating and about opening your mind to some diversity, but also realizing that our history is not necessarily what we learned, but there are people that carry that history that are still alive and continuing that work in all of our communities and how can we support each other because Wild Berries, isn’t about me, it’s about us. And it’s about all of our communities and all of us healing through this incredible nourishment of food. And however it connects you culturally.

Karthika: I’ll definitely link to some of the resources that you’ve mentioned. Now this is more of a fun question and our last question. So I think it’s great to end it at this. If you were to invite some people you admire the most in your life and you’re going to cook for them who are they and what would you serve? And these don’t have to be famous people. They can be just people in your life.

Chef Elena: Who would be sitting at my dinner table. Oh aside from my family who I love to cook for when we get together. Its like a family reunion every time. We have such an incredible family. I feel like the family, we also choose the people that I call brothers and sisters and my movement when we have a chance to sit down and share those meals that’s the most beautiful time. I love chef Sean Sherman. I’m actually in Minneapolis working with him right now as he opens his new restaurant, which is something he’s been dreaming of. I have a good friend Tanya, who’s from six nations in Canada who every time I share a meal with her, I learned more about myself and what I’m capable of. I mentioned my friend in California, her name is Crystal Wabipaw. And I absolutely love being able to share meals with her. She cooks with so much beauty and color and flavors. I mean, I could go on and on there’s all these different regions and all these different spaces. I was able to go to Alaska and appreciate some of their indigenous foods there. And the diversity that they have in that area is incredible. I think it would just be a wonderful long meal of over a hundred people, all sharing these ingredients. And I also think of the ingredients that they provide, and I’ve had some meals like that. And I’ve been blessed to say that I’ve had not only them cook for me, but for me to be able to cook for them and to share those experiences and that mindfulness, it goes back to the beginning of our conversation.

Chef Elena: When you talked about your mother’s grandmother and how she cooked with prayer. For me that is a spiritual connection and how much we get from that. Every time, every opportunity I have to cook for my community and provide that nourishment it’s valuable. And I look forward to future meals with whoever’s welcome in and ends up at my table and being able to share that with them. So I appreciate being able to have meals with my good friends and inspiration really is what they are to me. But I also look forward to being able to provide those meals for people I have not met yet.

Karthika: Yeah. I love it. And it reminds me of something. My mother-in-law says this with every meal. When we talk about food and what we eat she says that what you are eating on that day, you were destined to eat. That meal was destined to be on your table at this point, at this time in your life. Everything is pre predetermined. Everything is, you know, written in the stars somewhere. And for whether you have people come over, either they just stop by and you share a snack or offer them tea, that has also been preordained somewhere. That’s already telling me they were supposed to be there. They were supposed to share that meal. It just feels like this there’s so much truth to what you’ve said in terms of it being spiritual, like food, being a spiritual journey.

Chef Elena: Right? Yes. It’s trusting the journey and taking a moment to appreciate that and sharing it and creating those memories with those fights. And hopefully the next time you had wild rice, you remember the friendship that was built from that first bite in the first.

Karthika: Absolutely. I mean, I knew then that I had to talk to you. So thank you so much for making my dream come true.

Chef Elena: Thank you for reaching out to me. I appreciate the conversation.

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