Lois Ellen Frank, PhD (Kiowa)
Chef/Owner, Red Mesa Cuisine, LLC
Author, “Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations”
Certified Lifestyle Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program
Adjunct Professor, Institute of American Indian Arts
Lois Ellen Frank, PhD has spent over a quarter century developing a unique multi-faceted expertise in the cuisines, ancestral foods and lifeways of diverse Native American nations throughout the continent, drawing upon many influences: a lifetime of practical experience as a chef; rigorous research skills enhanced by graduate school training as a culinary anthropologist and historian; creative talents as a photographer; awareness of the Kiowa heritage from her mother’s side of the family; and undying curiosity leading to immersing herself in more and more Native communities and cultures. It would be plausible to regard publication of her landmark book, “Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations”, winner of the James Beard Americana award, as a culmination and summation of all these experiences, but her explorations and new output, as a lecturer, chef, author and artist, expand ever outward into new territory.
Dr. Frank completed a Master of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology and PhD in Culinary Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, completing a dissertation on “The Discourse and Practice of Native American Cuisine: Native American Chefs and Native American Cooks in Contemporary Southwest Kitchens.” Her research has covered the agricultural, culinary, mythological and socioeconomic aspects of foods and plants among indigenous peoples throughout the American continents. She has explored the importance of corn as a common thread for widespread native peoples, the sensual ethno-aesthetics of food and food presentation, the use of indigenous ingredients by contemporary Southwestern chefs in their cooking, and how such food-reclaiming is representational not only of local or personal identities but also of a larger Native American food movement that includes food sovereignty activism.
Dr. Frank has published more than 15 culinary posters, more than 18 cookbooks, and, in collaboration with Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nationally distributed video and recipe booklet titled “Power to Heal Diabetes: Food for Life in Indian Country.” In 2010 the Western National Parks Association published her work “The Taco Table,” winner of the Arizona Glyph Book Award for best new cookbook. In 2011, she was awarded the Krider Prize for Creativity by the University and College Designers Association Foundation. She received certification as a Lifestyle Coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program, from the Diabetes Training and Technical Assistance Center at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. She has made conference presentations on the subject matter of “Ancestral Diets for Modern-Day Native Americans: Reclaiming Health and Healing Diabetes,” for example at the meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
In 2007, Dr. Frank launched a Native American Cuisine catering company, Red Mesa Cuisine, that cooks “ancestral Native American foods with a modern twist” for private events/parties, corporate or nonprofit meetings, and gallery openings, as well as for Native organizations’ events throughout the U.S. Red Mesa Cuisine uniquely provides an educational lecture on the history of the foods from the Southwest Native American nations in conjunction with a multiple-course meal prepared by Dr. Frank and fellow chef Walter Whitewater (Diné/Navajo). The chefs have provided catering plus historical and health-promotion insights to communities in many Native American nations such as: Diné/Navajo; Quechan, Salt River and Tohono O’odham of Arizona; Muscogee Creek and Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative of Oklahoma; Kalispel and Tulalip of Washington; and numerous Pueblo nations, Ysleta Del Sur, Jemez, Santa Ana, Tesuque, Ohkay Owingeh, Nambe, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Picuris and Taos. Under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and Office of Cultural Affairs, they have also acted as Culinary Ambassador Diplomats by demonstrating Native American cuisine in London, St. Petersburg (Russia) and the Ukraine.
Dr. Frank has served as Adjunct Professor at Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), Santa Fe, where her curriculum included Traditional Arts and Ecology, Ethnobotany of Foods and Plants of the Southwest, and Indigenous Concepts of Traditional Native American Foods. She has presented series of classes regarding diabetes at IAIA and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and is a frequent featured cooking instructor at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. She has also written food articles, incorporating her own photographic work, for Native Foodways (Tohono O’odham), New Mexico Magazine, Guest Life New Mexico, Aboriginal Voices, Vegetarian Times and Repast.