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Stacie Boston
Cherokee Phoenix 

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – Growing up, love through food and food in general was an important part of Jacque Siegfried’s life. So much so that she and her husband, Ricky, went into business and opened Nātv, a restaurant that modifies Indigenous cuisines so they fit in a more “modern” setting.

Siegfried, who is Shawnee but on the Cherokee roll, has been doing culinary arts for approximately 17 years but has been surrounded by food even before then through her grandmother, grandfather and father’s cooking.

“Eventually, I was like, ‘I want to open my own (restaurant).’ And my husband was like, ‘well, what food speaks to you? What’s going to make your heart happy.”’ And I was like, ‘Native American food,’” Siegfried, Nātv’s executive chef, said. “I’ve wanted a Native American restaurant since I was very, very young, about 6 (or) 7. I wanted to be able to bring that to a community where I seen that it was kind of lacking.”

Siegfried’s dream became a reality on April 5 when Nātv had its soft opening. The restaurant officially opened on April 12 and offers a seasonal menu with locally-sourced products.

“We have a seasonal menu. So, it changes,” she said. “We get our meat from the Quapaw (Nation); they have a cattle processing plant. We ended up finding some local farms here to work with, so we can get our produce and then go to the farmers market and get as much as we can.”

Nātv currently offers items such as bison sliders, corn cakes, three sisters stew, Pashofa, sunchoke gnocchi, both seared bison and duck filet, forms of succotash, fry bread, grape dumplings and more.

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As for how they choose their dishes, Siegfried said research was involved as well as speaking with other Native people.

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“We did a bunch of research and kind of was like, ‘what are other tribes…eating before colonial times?’ But we were trying to incorporate pre-contact and then post-contact…so incorporating that into a more modern style,” she said. “Then I talked to a bunch of other Native Americans.…so, we’ve kind of asked people for feedback of what they’re looking for because I don’t want it to just be what I want. I want to feed a community that doesn’t have those options.”

When COVID-19 shook the world in early 2020, it had some effect on people whether it be physical, mental or both. Siegfried was no exception as she said it put her in a “funk” with her cooking. Little did she know it would lead her to opening new doors.

“I was the executive chef at the Tulsa Club Hotel...and then whenever COVID hit (I) kind of like just got in a funk and I was real depressed and just not cooking the same way. You should cook what makes you happy,” she said. “So, I made like three sisters stew at my house and my husband was like, ‘this is so good’...and so I was like, ‘I can start introducing you to some of that stuff.’ Because he is white, he hadn’t eaten a lot of the things that I ate growing up. Then I started cooking it pretty much two or three times a week. I was like, ‘man, I feel better. I’m happy when I’m cooking. Let’s truly dive into it.’”

After realizing that was the next step in her culinary career, Siegfried said she and her husband took part in the Kitchen 66 program in 2021 at the Mother Road Market in Tulsa after her friend suggested the “food business incubator” program.

“They helped with like the costing of your menu, they help with all your permits, getting your location,” she said “…at the end of the course, you have to do a pop-up event. We did our first pop-up event and it went great...we had great feedback and got a lot of regulars from it.”

Siegfried said her goal is to bring people together through food. She added it is important to be respectful of the food, especially Indigenous foods due to the journey they took to get to the present day and location.

“Nobody should have that whole culture taken away from you and food is a good way to be able to talk about it,” she said. “You can talk about the fact that you lost your crops, you lost where you were living and eating but they had to do the Trail of Tears and they brought certain beans and seeds with them that they didn’t eat along the way so that we could have them today and it was a huge sacrifice…so we need to be respectful of that food, and we need to preserve it as much as we can.”

Nātv is located at 1611 S. Main St. in Broken Arrow. For more information, visit natvba.com.

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This article was first published in the Cherokee Phoenix