Even amidst the sawdust, the spirit of the café begins to shine through.
The floor isn’t yet installed, but hanging above the plywood is an exquisite, hand-blown chandelier of glass gourds and tendrils: a contemporary work by local artist, Treavor Holdman, representing the mix of traditional heritage and contemporary style the café blends together.
The Black Sheep Café, a new restaurant scheduled to open early in March at 19 N. University Avenue in Provo, aims to bring something new to the valley, a blend of art, culture and cuisine, highlighting the evolving character of Southwestern Native Americans.
“We didn’t all live in teepees,” said café co-owner, Bleu Adams, speaking of Native Americans.
One of her goals with the cafe is to dispel many of the misconceptions surrounding native cultures. She explained that Native American cultures are distinct and diverse, representing a wide variety of peoples and customs. Adams herself comes from a diversity of native heritage: her mother is Navajo and her father hails from northern plains natives.
“[Our goal with the cafe is to] showcase our culture as it’s evolving,” Adams explained.
She wants the café to show the new directions native cultures are taking. In keeping with this goal, the café will serve modern southwestern Native American cuisine that Adams describes as “indigenous ingredients with contemporary flare.”
The menu is a creation by Adams’ brother and the café’s chef, Mark Daniel Mason, who has been cooking since Adams can remember and even recently cooked at a premier Italian restaurant in Arizona. Some items from the menu include a trio of Navajo tacos (Black Sheep pinto, red chile beef, and green chile pork), Bleu Fire Shrimp (spicy shrimp with a blue corn polenta and roasted sweet corn pico de gallo), and the Goat Burger (goat-cheese-stuffed ground beef with portabella mushrooms and roasted peppers, served in Navajo bread). Cumin-garlic sweet potato fries will also be served along with other creations by Chef Mason.
When asked why locals should come to the café, Adams had four words, “Chef Mark Daniel Mason.” She further explains, “You’ve never tasted food like this.”
Yet the food isn’t the only delicacy the café will serve. Linked to the café will be an art shop and silversmith studio. The art shop will feature in vogue Native American art for sale (not “touristy” art, as Adams explains). In the studio, Adams’ father, Winston Mason, will create silver jewelry from scratch using “old-style” techniques that Adams says are rare these days.
Winston begins his works of art with plain sheets of silver, eventually creating original jewelry through a range of processes using the highest quality materials. Winston will not only be creating silverworks, he will be teaching about them. Locals can sign up to take beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses in silver-working from Winston.
As shown in the silversmith lessons, Adams hopes that the café will not only be a place of art but a place of learning. She hopes to bring in a variety of Native American guest chefs, Native American artists and others to exhibit their works and possibly teach a little at the café.
Adams also hopes to give back to the community by teaching a little about business. Though she loves art and food, she says her talents lie in business and planning.
In fact, Adams wrote up the business plan for the café herself. She originally wrote the plan about four years ago and in past months began to put it into action.
When asked what has been the greatest challenge with the café, Adams cited negativity from others.
“When you tell people you’re opening a restaurant, the first thing people say is, ‘You know how many restaurants go under?’” Adams explained.
In spite of doubts from others, Adams says that she has remained focused and driven. She and her sister, Annie, are co-owners of the business and have built it up themselves with the help of family and friends. They haven’t hired contractors to prepare the café, but have been doing the work themselves. Annie was working on the floor with a drill late into the evening, proving this fact.
Adams wants people to know that it is possible to build a business yourself. She also wants people to know that Native Americans aren’t all living off handouts—she says this is another misconception many have.
In spite of struggles, Adams appears to be living her dream. She said, “There are three things I love: art, food and my culture.” In the Black Sheep Café these three loves intertwine, building a new haven for expression and understanding in the midst of our home, our valley. The café is scheduled for a soft opening on Feb. 10 followed by a grand opening in March, where painter Ryan Singer will be present.
By Sierra Wilson
To follow the café’s progress, visit its page on facebook at www.facebook.com/blacksheepcafe