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 In February, the Fry Bread House in Phoenix’s Melrose District was spotlighted on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” hosted by television star Guy Fieri. 

 During the episode, viewers were treated to a showcase of the Fry Bread House’s culinary treasures. Fieri indulged in the flavors of the Native Taco, a beloved specialty featuring fry bread filled with savory red chili beef and mashed pinto beans. The episode also featured Chim stew, served alongside the restaurant’s signature fry bread.

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“In every Native American restaurant, the food has just tons of flavor. It shows cultural education through food, and that’s powerful,” Fieri said during the episode.

Established in October 1992 by Cecilia Miller, a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Fry Bread House was the first Native American restaurant to receive the prestigious James Beard Award in 2012 as an American classic. 

Following Cecilia's passing in 2020, the restaurant transitioned into the hands of her children, Jennifer Miller and Richard Perry. They took on the responsibility of carrying forward Cecilia’s legacy, ensuring that her vision and culinary heritage remained alive and thriving.

“As a family, we just decided that we were going to continue to keep it going. She had no idea that her food was going to have the appeal to a wide array of people,” said Miller, reflecting on her mother’s culinary journey during the episode. 

The Tohono O’odham people are known throughout the Southwest for their Red Chili Beef, large hand-stretched flour tortillas (chumuth), and frybread (popovers), as well as basket-making and various other skills and trades. 

According to The Fry Bread House, Cecelia felt it was important to stick with foods that were known to her and her culture. This is why she maintained frybread and red chili beef on the menu rather than trying to incorporate native cuisine from other tribal communities and cultures. 

Fry bread holds a significant place in Native American culture, symbolizing the resilience and resourcefulness of its people. When Native Americans were forced to relocate to reservations, they were given rations of flour, sugar, salt, and lard by the government. With limited resources and unfamiliar ingredients, they ingeniously combined these to create fry bread, a testament to their ability to adapt and survive.

“Getting the James Beard Award is amazing, now getting the chance to share with the world this amazing culture and heritage, is a job well done,” said Fieri. 

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.