Canku Ota Logo
Canku Ota
Canku Ota Logo
(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
pictograph divider
Barton Delves Into Native American Cuisine
by Stacie Guthrie - Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Taelor Barton, who is the executive chef at The Vault in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says she began taking a creative role in cooking at age 13. She credits her grandmother, Cherokee National Treasure Edith Knight, as having a "huge" part in her becoming a chef. (photo by Stacie Guthrie - Cherokee Phoenix)

Executive chef Taelor Barton shapes a bean cake for a Native American-inspired dinner party on April 19 at The Vault in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (photo by Stacie Guthrie - Cherokee Phoenix)
TULSA, OK — Taelor Barton grew up watching her grandmother, Edith Knight, cook. Those cooking sessions inspired Barton to become a chef and share her talent in creating food.

"My grandma did indeed have a huge part in me choosing to be a chef later on in life. It was something that we always did together," the 26-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen said. "I think it started out as something to kind of keep me busy at first and then the more skills that I would learn, especially when I was away from her, I would come back and show her and then we'd cook together. Basically, she used food to extend care to us as children. It was such an important nurturing aspect of my upbringing that I couldn't let it go. I had to kind of carry on in her stead, being a cook in the family."

Barton said she began taking a creative role in cooking at age 13. "Even though I didn't know much I still wanted to play with food and see what I could make."

This love for cooking inspired Barton to study culinary arts while in high school. She later attended the Oklahoma State University-Institute of Technology's culinary program in Okmulgee.

She said even today taking on that creative role when she was 13 affects how she approaches food.

Barton is now the executive chef at The Vault in Tulsa, where she showcases not only her cooking skills but also her heritage with her food.

"I created about 50 percent of the dishes here. There's a set number of non-signature items that I will innovate new (with) every menu change," she said. "I also have brought to the table our cauliflower wings and then a vegan dish, which is a stuffed acorn squash. Kind of has a little bit of Native American influence with smoked vegetables. It is a dish that appeals to meat eaters and vegans alike."

The Cherokee Phoenix caught up with Barton on April 18 as she prepared Native-inspired dishes for a dinner at The Vault.

"It is going to have different stages of Native American cooking involved. A lot of the stuff will have some sort of newer European influence because of the settlers," she said. "There will be fry bread because of the milled wheat. Also, I'm going to be using something that was very dear to me, something my grandmother taught me how to make was kanuchi."

Barton said she became interested in creating a Native American-inspired menu while her grandmother was "fading in health."

"I realized that after she would pass I would lose, possibly, a little bit of that Native American influence in my life. So I wanted to take advantage of it still being fresh in my mind, the things that she had taught me," she said. "I wanted to make her proud, and I wanted to do it to bring honor to her."

Barton said her grandmother died in March 2016, which left her wanting to honor Knight through cooking. Knight, who was a Cherokee National Treasure for tear dressmaking, was also known for making kanuchi, a traditional Cherokee meal made from hickory nuts.

Barton's goal for the April 19 dinner was to "generate" interest in Native American cuisine.

"A lot of people have asked me before, "What is Native American to you?" At first I drew a blank because it is a culture that is not as mentioned every day like Italian cuisine. You know when a pizza's Italian or spaghetti is somewhat Italian or a burger and fries is American. But where would those cultures be without the tomato, without corn. As I look more into it you realize that everything that is American has Native American influence in that," she said.

Barton said she's offered Native dishes such as bean cakes, wild onions and eggs and even kanuchi. She added that she wanted to feature these Native-inspired dishes because she believes it's important to share it with the Tulsa area.

"As for as close as we are to Indian Country, surprisingly very little influence from the Native American cuisine is present in restaurants in a popular area such as Tulsa," she said. "My aim is to generate interest and bringing more Native American culture back into the mainstream cooking."

pictograph divider
Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us
Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us
pictograph divider
  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000 - 2017 of Vicki Williams Barry and Paul Barry.
Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo
The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the
Copyright © 1999 - 2017 of Paul C. Barry.
All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!