Top Chef - The Good Land, Featuring Indigenous Restaurants

The deRosiers are big fans of Top Chef. We've watched all the seasons and love seeing the chefs whip up delicious looking food under time and budget pressures. We get fully into the roles of armchair quarterback, calling it out when someone is playing it too safe, debating the severity of the sins of a dish (Is under-seasoned food worse than food that eats dry?), and declaring the doom of whoever dares to make risotto. We've followed the careers of some of the contestants and have even visited some of their restaurants specifically because we've seen them on Top Chef

Top Chef 21 is in Wisconsin, a state we visited two years ago. As we've been watching this season, it's been great fun seeing places we visited pop up on the show. One of the coolest things about visiting all 50 states is that we are constantly recognizing locations we've been in movies and on TV. Top Chef has featured local dishes we tried in Wisconsin and have made me want to visit some places we missed during our visit. 

Today I want to talk about Season 21 Episode 9, The Good Land. This episode features Indigenous chefs and guest judges Sean Sherman and Elean Terry. The two prepared a feast for the contestants featuring the dishes of their people, made exclusively with native plants and animals. At one point, the contestants are asked how many of them have eaten in an Indigenous restaurant. The answer: none.

This both shocked and saddened me. Pretty much every town in the US has Chinese, Mexican, and Italian restaurants at the very least (and increasingly, restaurants from many other cuisines around the world), but few feature Indigenous cuisine. The US is a land of immigrants (I'm on Team Salad Bowl vs Team Melting Pot) and we embrace food from around the world, which is awesome, but I wish Indigenous cooking were more beloved. The cuisine features local ingredients, prepared simply... people should be clamoring to eat that food. 

We've eaten at four outstanding Indigenous restaurants across the country, including Sean Sherman's. They are well worth the visit - each of these places was a highlight from its trip!



4 of the Best Indigenous Restaurants in the US

Thirty Nine

I would eat here again and again. The modern indigenous cuisine at Thirty Nine was absolutely delicious. There were a lot more things we wanted to try than the three of us could eat!


Owamni is pricy and, at least when we visited, it was very difficult to get reservations. But it's so worth it. This is a meal I will remember for the rest of my life. 

Indian Pueblo Kitchen

Do not miss Indian Pueblo Kitchen. This was the first Native restaurant we visited as part of our 50 state adventure and it is what prompted me to look for them during our future travels. 

Aaimpa' Café

If you're looking for Indigenous food that is affordable in a super casual atmosphere, Aaimpa' Cafe is perfect. Good food, made with love and pride. Come hungry - the portions are generous! 

I have a short list of recommendations for other Indigenous restaurants to try out, including one that's an easy drive away. If you've eaten at a great Indigenous restaurant, let me know in the comments. I'd love to add it to my list. 


Salt Dough States

When I made the state flag heart magnets, I saved some of the salt dough to make another state-themed project. I just finished painting them and I'm really happy with how they turned out. 

Here's Missouri and Nevada. I was planning to paint them with their respective state colors, but Missouri doesn't have state colors. So instead, I used the red, white, and blue of the Missouri state flag, then added a silver Gateway Arch. For Nevada (the Silver State), I did use the state colors of blue and silver. 


Neither Connecticut nor Iowa has state colors, so I used their flags as inspiration for the background colors. I replaced Connecticut's grape-themed Coat of Arms and Iowa's bird-and-banner with hearts.


For Pennsylvania and Georgia (no state colors for either) I took inspiration from their nicknames. For the Keystone State, I used the blue background of their flag, then replaced Pennsylvania's overly complicated seal with a keystone. For the Peach State, I ignored the flag altogether and painted an ombre peach background, then drew a peach.  


Now that I've shown you what I did, it's time to tell you how I did it! Affiliate links below. 

Salt Dough States



Roll out the salt dough a Silpat so that it is 1/4-1/2" thick. Place the cut-out state shapes onto the dough. 

Use a sharp knife to carefully cut around the edges of the states. 

Remove the paper templates. Do not try to move the cut-out shapes. You can dry them in a low oven by simply putting the Silpat on a baking sheet, but I just air-dried mine for four days. If you choose to air-dry, let them sit on the Silpat for a day without moving them until they are crusted over and pale. The following day, carefully flip them over. After another day, when the second side is crusted and pale, remove the Silpat and let the states dry completely on a cooling rack for two days. Obviously, drying time will vary significantly depending on your temperature and humidity. Make sure they are completely dry before you paint them. 

I started by painting the backgrounds for each state. When those were dry, I used the silver Sharpie and the paint pens to add the details. 

So what do you do with these? I see a lot of possibilities. If you poke a hole in them before the salt dough is dry, you can turn them into keychains. If you press an ornament hanger into them immediately after flipping them on Day 2, you can hang these on the tree. You could add a magnet to the back to put it on the fridge, or you could even use a Sharpie to write the name and capital city on the back and use them like flash cards. Lots of possibilities!