Join Paul G for an interview with the winner of Fox's new show Next Level Chef.
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About Chef Pyet
Stephanie goes by Pyet, short for her inherited native american name Pyetwetmokwe.Pyet spent part of her childhood on the Osage Indian Reservation, the remaining years of her life have been spent in Kansas City,KS. She is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribe. She recently relocated to Los Angeles, CA to promote wellness and nutrition through food. She embraces both her Native American and Mexican heritage equally.
Pyet's passion for cooking developed as a child while being the help in the kitchen. She was intrigued by the spices and aromas in her family's taquerias and restaurants in the Kansas City area. She attended Le'Cole Culinaire to pursue a Culinary Education and since has earned a certification in Wellness & Nutrition. Pyet started a personal chef business ‘Pyet's Plate' in 2016, to promote passion for wellness, nutrition and quality of food to the public. While doing so hopes to encourage others to pass along healthy cooking, lifestyle choices and traditions within their own families.
Welcome to Pow Wow life podcast from PowWows.com, connecting you as a native culture since 1996. Here's your host, Paul Gowder.
Paul Gowder 00:17
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Pow Wow life podcast. I'm your host, Paul Gowder and welcome. PowWows.com is your place to come learn, explore, experience, and connect with Native American culture. And this is the podcast of PowWows.com where I get to interview native people from all over North America and bring you the latest stories from Indian country. Today, I've got an interview with Chef Pyet who just won Foxe's new show Next Level Chef. It's an incredible story of how she uses her culture in her recipes to really bring out unique flavors. Don't forget to listen to the end of the show. I have some announcements, this week's trivia question and some other notes about what's going on but for now enjoy our interview with Chef Pyet.
Paul Gowder 02:27
So, watching the finale of the of the show Gordon Ramsay said something to you. But right before he announced you winner that your background showed up in your cooking throughout the entire show. What does that mean to you? I mean, it gave me chills to hear him say something like that for an indigenous chef, but what does that mean to you? And how did you bring your culture in your and your heritage into your cooking?
Chef Pyet 02:50
You know, I think something that I've tried to do with my work the last couple of years is just to really try to represent myself and people like myself, and so kind of putting myself on the plate. And you know, to hear Gordon Ramsay say that that, you know, that was present and that he noticed, and he acknowledged it to me was validation that I'm doing the right thing that you know, I'm not just doing food that everybody wants to eat, I'm cooking food that I'm passionate about. And that makes sense to me. And I'm hoping to, you know, be a voice for people like myself that are fusions like there's a lot of people here, you know, in America that are now like this new generation of fusion people that come from different Heritage's different backgrounds. And you know, it means a lot, you know, and I'm very proud to be somewhat of a voice for those people and to kind of present this new era of like fusion people, you know, to the forefront into the culinary world. So, what I tried to do is take native food and mix it with Mexican food because those are both of my Heritage's and create like really bold, beautiful dishes. And I was able to do that with you know, the brunch taco that I made in the competition. And that was that was my favorite dish because I had Fry Bread, I had Chorizo, I had like the strawberry salsa, and it was just a phenomenal dish. It was great. Something that I'm actually going to put on my menu for my pop-up restaurants. So being able to bring those two Heritage's together and make these beautiful dishes that were validated by Gordon Ramsay is like Wow, super incredible.
Paul Gowder 04:32
Yeah, that was a heck of a compliment to give I really cool to see that. So, let's back up. So how did you get into cooking? Go ahead.
Chef Pyet 04:40
I'm so sorry. I have to let my cat out.
Paul Gowder 04:43
Chef Pyet 04:44
Paul Gowder 04:49
No problem. Oh, alright. So, let's back up and how did you get into cooking and where are you from? What you know, what is your background?
Chef Pyet 04:57
So, I am I was born in Oklahoma and my really early childhood was raised on Osage reservation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, and then was moved to Kansas where most of all my family is from and grew up in Kansas, the majority of my life. And my heritage background is Native American. So, I'm the member of the Caribbean, Potawatomi Nation. And we also have Sac and Fox blood in our family. And on my dad's side, my dad is Mexican American. So, his mother is American, French, Spanish French descent, and then his father is from Mexico. So, I grew up with, and my last name is DeSpain, which is the most Spanish french it could possibly get. So, I'm a fusion of all of these, you know, cultures and these things, but I grew up, you know, very much so within the native, you know, native ceremony and traditions and learning a lot about that, and kind of being engulfed into that heritage and that culture. So how I decided that, you know, how I got into cooking, initially, was just taking my experiences growing up with these two cultures that value food. And food is a sense of, you know, community, it brings communities together brings families together. And so, you know, food was always a celebratory, you know, thing, you make a dinner and everyone's like, together eating at the same table. And on my dad's side, that's where everyone loves to cook. So, my grandmother owned 4a restaurant called Tres, whereas, which was Mexican food. And then I had two uncles that own like taquerias cantina type of restaurants. And so, I grew up with this family that has this passion and love for food to the point that like so much they were investing their life savings into these restaurants, because that's how, how much we love food as a family. So, I grew up around people that just love food, valued food. And I've been cooking, you know, pretty much my whole life and our family, if you are old enough to join the assembly line of making Tamale, and you're they're Tamale with everybody. And then, you know, it's something you're doing with the family. And then you guys get to all enjoy it together and talk about what you would do differently. Or maybe the salsa this time was perfect. And last year, it was, you know, not as good or that the meat is drier this year, like what did we do different. So just being raised in that environment of, you know, people that love food, analyze food, we're super competitive with food. And we have such a big family. So, everyone has to contribute to the meal somehow or another. And then on my, on my mother's side, my grandmother, she's a full-blooded native, but she does not know how to cook. So, the two things that she did know how to cook, she did teach me which was corn soup, and fry bread. So, she taught me those two things. And of course, corn soup was a major pillar in indigenous food and native culture. So, there's a lot of cool stories behind corn soup, and everyone has their own recipes. And so, I was thought that was really neat. And then of course, you have Pow Wows where you have, you know, the meat pies, and fry breads and different stews, and all the chili dogs are corndogs even though that those are not native foods, it's still something that we enjoy while we're there experiencing. Yeah, like we're still there experiencing it and loving it. And so, I think those were the major pillars of my life, like just having that heritage really contribute to my love for food. But I went to culinary school later on in life in my early 20s. And I was actually working in the automotive industry before I got into cooking full time. And I did great, I made great money, but there's just always something missing. And I think that's something missing was I was actually in the wrong field of work. You know, I needed to be in the kitchen. And so, I really just started cooking and as a hobby and learning about different cooking techniques and learning about different cuisines. And then finally it clicked. I was like, oh, I should probably go to culinary school and see what my options are. So that's really how the journey began.
Paul Gowder 08:59
When did you go to culinary school? How long ago was that?
Chef Pyet 09:02
I went when I was 23. So about seven eight years ago.
Paul Gowder 09:09
Okay. And they talked about you were on the on the show, the social media chef, you know, and you kind of came up doing things online. So, it talked about, you know, how I guess then the new way we do things with Tik Tok and Instagram and all that. How did that affect you as a chef?
Chef Pyet 09:27
So it actually benefited me tremendously during COVID Because I was doing you know, there's a part of my journey where I talk about homelessness and experiencing, you know, kind of couch surfing here in Los Angeles and it was pretty hard time for me just to and it was kind of like you know it's time embarrassing because I had to ask people to like stay at their homes and use their showers and I have a cat with me and I'm not only is it me, but it's me and my cat and so it was a very tough situation to be in because you know people not everybody He likes cats. And it just like I felt so uncomfortable. But I end up losing my jobs because I was cooking, I was teaching cooking classes at this culinary school, this culinary school that sold culinary. Like equipment and, and different like knives and cooking pans and all like the cool stuff, the cool gadgets, and they had this little classroom off to the side where they were teaching cooking classes to the public. And so, people would go there, like, you know, religiously every week and try to learn something new. And so, it wasn't necessarily a cooking school, but you know, cooking classes, so I actually was working there and then the pandemic hit, and we, the business actually closed and got bought out by another company. So, we had no jobs, anyone that worked there for that company, and we had no jobs, we lost our job. So, I reverted to using social media as a way to connect with clients and customers. And I started teaching online zoom cooking classes. And I was putting together these food boxes where I would premeasure out all the ingredients and either ship it to the client or I would go drop it off at their door. So that way they had the recipe packets, they had, you know, all the food and they didn't have an excess amount of food, they had the right amount of ingredients for everything. And so, I started, you know, doing that. And I was hosting live cooking, live cooking Instagram lessons and was teaching people how to do different things online. So that's what really sparked a lot of people's interest in learning about, you know, the type of food that I was cooking, or just learning things in general. And I began to really develop a following after I was featured on Buzzfeed for indigenous recipes. And so, it worked for my advantage. I later on, you know, ended up becoming a traveling private chef, which is why I stopped doing a lot of the social media stuff because I was busy, you know, traveling and, and I was like cooking on boats and doing all the really cool things. But you know, being labeled as a social media chef, I first I was like, that's a negative thing. I'm like, I'm not just a social media chef, I went to school, I'm a professional, but actually, it's not a bad, you know, to label to have at all. Because I think that you can reach so many people with social media, which is great. It really benefited me.
Paul Gowder 12:18
Um, yeah, and COVID did a lot of bad things. But you hear these stories, more and more of entrepreneurs really taking and seizing the opportunity and making something out of it. So that's awesome that that it worked out for you. Have you always been a fan of cooking competition shows? I know you mentioned your family is competitive, but it's just I mean, like, are you a die hard, you know, chop fan or whatever. And so how did you get to the show?
Chef Pyet 12:44
So, I actually watched master chef, and I've watched chopped and I'm like, oh, that'd be so cool to be on one of those shows. I ended up having one of my close friends. He entered me into the master chef competition like many years ago, when I first moved to Los Angeles, like you need to be on TV, like, we need to make this happen. So, like he secretly behind my back went and submitted an application on my behalf. And I was like, are you joking? Like, did you really do like oh, yes, I did, did they call you and I'm like no, so they are never casted me. So, he's my friend is one that also planted that seed. And I was like, man, maybe I should, you know, apply for some cooking shows and see what happens. I didn't get cast it for anything until later on. One of the casting directors or casting crew members called me and said, we got your information from a submission to master chef, but this is a different like Gordon Ramsay cooking show. It's called Hell's Kitchen. Like, do you want to interview for it? So, I interviewed, I ended up getting casted, but I didn't take the opportunity. I was too afraid at the time. I also didn't think that it was a good fit for my skill set. Being a private chef, I would be going up against people that worked in the food industry for years as line cooks. And all these people are there to win an opportunity to go cook for Gordon Ramsay as a chef and one of his restaurants. And I was just like, you know, great the exposure would be cool. But I don't think that that's for me, and I don't want to take up take up space for someone else if that's what their goal and their dream is. So, I ended up passing up that opportunity. They then did the same thing and took my information, sent it over to the new casting directors and casting team for, you know, Next Level chef. And then the rest is history. So, I actually barely made the cut for their casting for this season. Because they had three chefs that dropped out one week before they started filming. They were kind of scrambling to find quote unquote, social media chefs. And they were like, this is a social media chef, like we need to interview her. They called me We interviewed the same day the next day. They're like, okay, great. We're gonna put you through the entire process of you know, applying for the show. If you have to go through like a psychiatric evaluation you have to go through like all of these things background check. And then they called me, you know, four days later and said, okay, you're going to Las Vegas pack up your bags, and I'm like, Wait, what am I going to like you're leaving four days. And I'm like, what? So, everything was just like, super quick. It's crazy. Like it all just kind of happened serendipitously, you know, that sometimes
Paul Gowder 15:20
That's just the way it happens. Right? Yeah. So, as you've been developing your cooking over the years, and working through culinary school, and online and everything else, who have been those, I guess the chefs that gave you inspiration? Are there some that you've looked up to?
Chef Pyet 15:37
Oh, definitely. I'm, I'm sure everyone's familiar with the name by now. But Sean Sherman, the Sioux Chef, he's someone that is, you know, has led the pavement has, you know, like, kind of put down the bricks on the pavement for all of us chefs to really explore his work and learn from him. And also, you know, be able to develop our own skill set within our heritage as food and indigenous food. And so, I definitely like once he came out with, he's, I feel more recent, within the last past, you know, four or five or four years that I've three will say three years, I've known about him, but he's been doing his work for quite some time. But before him, I was really looking up, you know, to people like Anthony Bourdain that are just awesome, like authentic is that what I'm looking for? They're authentic. Yeah, they're just unapologetically themselves and the like, he expresses the side of culinary world that's grimy and grungy and dirty and dark. And I really appreciated that about him. And he's over here is traveling the world and allowing us viewers for his show Parts Unknown, allowing viewers to see a part of the world that we would not we wouldn't be exposed to had it not been from him going into those places. And so, he really sparked an interest in me to really want to explore native communities and culture and kind of, I have a goal to be able to shine a light on that, as well as like, what it's actually like, on reservations, because people the world doesn't know, they think that we still live in Tipi. And there, it's kind of an ignorant perception that they have indigenous people. And so, I would love to shine the light on like current day, native people and just really celebrate the lives and the culture of native people. So those two specifically but, I mean, there's people that I've had in my life, like personable that I've had experience cooking with and one was my friend Akia she's an African American woman, and she's a chef and just like, she's such a strong person, and she has like, you know, very strong family core values and she's super knowledgeable and amazing chef, so these are people that along the way that I've you know, that I've looked up to and that have inspired me to go over and beyond and say you know, I think I want to be the voice of people like myself which I feel like is a brave and courageous thing to do because you know, I haven't always been super confident and you know, there's growing up multicultural you don't know you know where you fit in and my I'm not native enough I don't speak the language I don't look native. I don't look Mexican either, but I'm not I don't speak Spanish fluently so it's like you don't really fit in anywhere so I had that struggle growing up and now and as adult I can be proud and celebrate both of my heritage and say I don't have to look a certain way to be this or be that I am just myself and I'm kind of like a new generation of fusion of people.
Paul Gowder 18:37
I love that Yes. And being yourself is the key that's great I love that, so for people like myself who struggle just to follow the recipe on the you know on the in the download online or whatever, what tips you have for somebody like that to become that next level, you know, cooking and get skills and can jump outside of just downloading the recipe.
Chef Pyet 19:04
My suggestion is literally just, one second this cat of mine, hold on. Sorry, she's normally not this crazy, but she's I've been on a lot of interviews, she is like pay attention to me. Okay, what was the question again? I'm so sorry.
Paul Gowder 19:54
Oh, yeah. For people like me that are struggling. Yeah. How what's the tips you have for that?
Chef Pyet 19:59
So, my recommendation and suggestions are too literally just getting in the kitchen and just start doing things you know, like, just explore. And you're not going to obviously know what to do right away before you try to take on like a super hard recipe that's like, you know, has 10,000 ingredients, just explore different things like trying different spices together, or, you know, you have to start somewhere. And it's okay that if you burn things a few times, because even professional chefs, we still burn things. And if it's something you know, really wanting to learn how to cook, you know, practice and repetition is going to be your best friend. So, when you cook, you know, chicken, for instance, and try cooking at a different temperature for different times, make sure you have like one of those little thermometers, meat thermometer so you can make sure your chicken is cooked all the way through. So that's a major tip is like buy yourself a thermometer because people are like, how do I you know, cook the perfect steak. And it's all about timing. And then you know, check the temperature. And you can stop timing yourself when you hit the right temperature that you want to the right cook that you want on your steaks. But definitely just get in the kitchen, just start throwing things around and see what you come up with and try out different flavors. And so, buy yourself some spices or some herbs or things that you're not used to and just try them. And then find recipes revolved around those flavors that you like. So for instance, if you're huge on basil and you love basil, you can then Google you know, recipes that have basil and then tons of things will come up and just, I would just, you know, just start from scratch basically, and get familiar with those flavors and, and then once you get the flavors down, the techniques come you know, so now that you have a flavor profile, like oh, this is this is time for that like to make and I'm familiar with the spices, then you can then go into, you know, techniques of cooking different, you know, different methods, and then you know, then the recipes become easier. So, you know, little by little step by step. Just try things a little bit here and there. And slowly you'll get you'll get better.
Paul Gowder 22:07
Thanks. And I'm not the best cook, but I try sometimes. So, what now you this is a huge accomplishment milestone and you've got a great prize that came out of this. So, what now for you, where are you heading?
Chef Pyet 22:23
So, there's so much on the horizon right now, I I'm working on a few different projects. And right now, I'm really focused on connecting with the, with the Native community and really just firsthand hearing and seeing and experiencing the voices and the lives of indigenous people of this country, especially if I'm going to be someone that's the voice or representing my Heritage's. I need to hear their voices and know exactly the struggles that they're going through. Because the life that I live here in Santa Monica is not the same life that some people are living across the nation. So, you know, how can I be a voice of people that I don't really know their lives. So, my goal is to tour the nation visits, different reservations and different native communities, learn from the people hear their voices, celebrate with them, and have it been kind of like a give take opportunity for you know, me to be there to obviously do acts of service and get back to the community. But also, I want to learn from the people, and I would learn different recipes that, you know, maybe I didn't grow up having or knowing different learning different cooking techniques, and just the stories of food and how important representation through food is or are people just having those conversations. So that's definitely a project that I'm working on. And it's going to be, you know, giving the circumstances of COVID Luckily, we are in a better place, you know, we're going into a better direction where things are opening up, and the mass mandates are, you know, in some states are, you know, going away, and we're actually able to conjugate as people again, so I'm really excited about that. So, and I have to get this funded, so having to, like, get this project funded. And I would love to be able to document some of these experiences and share it with the world. So that way people can see like, not just the negative side of the stories of indigenous people, you know, and not just hearing about the genocide and I think like when you are when people are constantly talking about the negative or the bad things that native people are facing, in a way like weakens the spirit of our voices. And we need to be talking about just as equally and just as much as the celebration of our culture and how we are so pride, proud to be where we come from and how rich the culture actually is. And so, my goal is to be able to shine a light on that. And then also like I'm you know, working on a cookbook, I'm more working on a memoir because I have a crazy life that I've lived I've probably lived 1000 lives and one I think I have a pretty unique story and just being able to say, just saying, I'm a girl from Kansas, I went to LA and became, you know, a winner of a Gordon Ramsay show. That alone is like an inspiring story. But all of the little obstacles and things that I've experienced within my life, I think, make that story even better. And I would love to share that with the world. And so, we have cookbooks, we have a children's cookbook, we have a memoir, we have the project of touring the nation. So, I've got my plate full, that's for sure. But I'm doing it all with dedication to really strengthening the voices of indigenous people. So that's what I've decided I want to dedicate my career and my life to doing.
Paul Gowder 25:41
That's fantastic. I can't wait to see where that goes. Thank you. Congratulations again. And thanks for spending a few minutes with us.
Chef Pyet 25:48
Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me. And looking forward to maybe more conversations about all the cool things will be happening in the future.
Paul Gowder 25:55
Yeah, for sure. Hope you enjoyed that interview. What a cool story. Right? Can't wait to follow her and see where she's going to go now. Alright, a couple of announcements first, don't forget gathering of nations Pow Wow is coming up in just a few weeks, and we will be streaming it live. We are so excited to be back in person in Albuquerque for the 2022 gathering of nations. Be sure to follow along with all what's going on PowWows.com. All right. This week's trivia question is, what year did gather of nations start? That's a tough one. See if you can find out what year did gather of nation start, you can head over to www.PowWowlife.com. and enter our form there for your chance at this week's prize pack. I'll draw a draw from all the correct entries next week, I want to say a special shout out. And thank you to all our supporters over on our Patreon. You can join them at www.PowWowNation.com. These folks are the booster club of PowWows.com. And they are making sure that we can produce incredible content, get out there stream more Pow Wows, and really continue to grow PowWows.com. So, thank you, thank you so much for being a Patreon if you are, we really appreciate that support. I'd love to have you join that community. We're doing some cool things over there at our Patreon, so come check it out over at www.PowWowNation.com. Again, I'm Paul Gowder. I am the founder of PowWows.com the host of this podcast. Thank you for joining us again this week and I hope to see you next time on another episode.
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Last Updated on October 20, 2022 by Paul G