Chef Crystal Wahpepah puts Indigenous foods on the map

ByAmit Lerner, Silvio Carrillo, Dana Langer Localish logo
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
Chef Crystal Wahpepah puts Indigenous foods on the map
Tapping into the wisdom of her elders, 'Queen of Cuisine' Crystal Wahpepah is on a mission to get Indigenous food a seat at the table. Watch National Geographic's Queens now streaming on Disney+ and Hulu.Chef Crystal Wahpepah of Wahpepah's Kitchen puts Indigenous foods on the map.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Chef Crystal Wahpepah, from the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, is harnessing the legacy of her ancestors as the owner of Wahpepah's Kitchen, the first woman-owned native restaurant in Northern California.

"We can actually tell a story on a plate as we make our different dishes," Wahpepah explains of her restaurant's mission. "I always like to honor these foods that actually represented this land first."

At its core, Wahpepah's Kitchen is truly a family-run business that was inspired by the cooking of her grandparents and the food that fed her tribe for centuries.

"I'm on my ancestors shoulders," Wahpepah said. "My ancestors are cheering me on."

Wahpepah also employs three of her daughters at the restaurant.

"I always tell them, you're not just representing me, you're representing your tribe, you're representing women of color, you're representing your generation," Wahpepah said.

"My mom inspires me to be a leader," said Rikki Hopper, one of Wahpepah's daughters from the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, of her experience working with her mom. "She inspires me to be resilient."

Wahpepah hopes National Geographic's Queens will inspire women from all walks of life to embrace their natural gifts and ancestral wisdom, too.

"A show like Queens can inspire a lot of women," she said. "We're natural-born leaders, we're strong, we have a lot of perseverance."

Watch National Geographic's Queens now streaming on Disney+ and Hulu.