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Andrea Murdoch in the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory. Photo by Sarah Boyum.

How An Indigenous Chef Connects To Her Culture On The Front Range

Andrea Murdoch shows how she celebrates her heritage on Indigenous Peoples' Day—and everyday.

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Chef Andrea Murdoch opened Four Directions Cuisine, an Arvada catering company focused on indigenous food, in the fall of 2017. Now, the Andean Venezuelan reveals the local spots that feed her identity.

A parfleche. Photo courtesy of Native American Trading Co.

Native American Trading Company
American Indian antiquities fill the upper level of this Civic Center neighborhood shop, including a room brimming with intricate textiles. Downstairs, find jewelry, pottery, and paintings by contemporary Native American artists. Don’t miss the “parfleches” (rawhide bags and containers) made and painted by Southern Ute tribe member Debra Box, whose work appeared in Dances With Wolves.

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Indigenous Film & Arts Festival
In its 16th year, the fest (October 10 to 14) showcases the work of native filmmakers and artists at venues across Denver. The headlining movie, Merata: How Mum Decolonized the Screen, documents the life of late Māori director and producer Merata Mita. “It’s about an indigenous woman breaking down barriers in her career,” Murdoch says. “The story inspires my cooking.”

Denver Botanic Gardens
When Murdoch wants to feel close to Venezuela, she visits the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory at the gardens. “I usually stop at the cacao bean pod plants,“ she says. “It’s grounding to see an ingredient from Latin America in Colorado.”

Button’s Blue Corn Whiskey
To concoct this spirit, Fairplay’s Snitching Lady Distillery sources blue corn from Bow & Arrow Foods, a farm and mill operated by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Towaoc. Murdoch, who uses the same blue cornmeal in her cooking, loves the drink’s sweet nuttiness. $45; find retailers at snitchingladydistillery.com

A Tocabe fry bread taco. Photo courtesy of Adam Larkey.

Tocabe
Murdoch says these American Indian eateries, with locations in Greenwood Village and Berkeley, are the best spots in the Denver area to try addictive fry bread. The traditional recipe comes from owner and Osage Nation member Ben Jacobs’ grandmother. (Murdoch also vouches for the bison ribs with house-made blueberry sauce.)

Indigenous Peoples’ Day
The holiday falls on October 14, but this fête lasts all weekend: Walk through Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks with Doreen Martinez, an assistant professor of indigenous studies at Colorado State University, to learn about the natural world through a Native American perspective. Members of the Southern Arapaho Nation tribe will demonstrate traditional dances at Boulder High School. Finally, gather at the Boulder International Peace Garden for a community event led by Arapaho and Cheyenne hand drummers. Complete schedule at bouldercolorado.gov

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