Woman cooks with love, creativity and an open mind
By JASON SCHWARTZBERG | Published Jan 19, 2018 01:03:19TUCSON, Ariz.
— A lot of people look at a new dish and think, ‘Wow, that’s really good.’
But if you take a look at what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s not so great, said Laura A. O’Neill, the founder and chief executive officer of O’Lennon Food Solutions.
“It’s really about the people and how the company is run.”
O’Leary is a culinary artist and a chef with a long history of work with Native American tribes, including in Utah.
She’s also a pioneer woman, helping pioneer women to become the leaders and managers of their families.
The goal is to open a place where the family and community can have a safe place to come together, she said.
O”Leary said she sees it as a community and as a place of healing, rather than as a business.
The company’s new restaurant in Utah, The New Moon Inn, will feature a Native American-themed menu, which will be a blend of traditional Navajo cuisine with American influences.
It will also be an open-concept dining experience with a focus on sharing and connecting with people, said O’Donnell.
“We wanted to be a place that the whole tribe could feel like they belonged,” O’Brien said.
“And the restaurant will be where people feel like a part of the tribe, and that will make it feel like you’re part of it.”
The new restaurant, which opened last month, will serve Navajo cuisine and will include a large outdoor kitchen and outdoor bar, O’Connell said.
The Navajo Nation has hosted a number of cultural events and festivals, including the New Moon Festival and the Navajo Day Parade.
The reservation has an estimated 5,000 reservation members, but about 500 are currently employed by companies.
“The reservation has been a hotbed for cultural and community gatherings for a long time, and so it’s been really important for us to keep bringing that out,” ODonnell said.
While it’s a lot of work for a small business, OLeary said it’s worth it.
“I think the community will really feel part of that, and it’s also something that I think is very much in our DNA, in our culture,” she said, adding that she hopes the reservation and the company’s work will lead to the development of other similar restaurants.
“If it works, it’ll have an impact.”
The New Sun Inn is a small operation, but it’s already a success story, with a menu featuring Navajo cuisine, and O’Neal’s experience has been invaluable in the restaurant, said co-owner and chief operating officer J.M. Luech, who was born in the reservation.
OLeary’s family emigrated from the Ute Mountain tribe, but she’s a descendant of the Navajo Nation and is one of only two people from the Navajo people to have served as a chief executive, Lueck said.
She said the reservation’s commitment to the reservation has paid off.
“They are very open and transparent,” she added.
The restaurant has been the focus of a number social media campaigns, with the goal of helping the Navajo community understand the importance of the reservation in its business and life.
The New Moons Inn has been in operation since April and is the latest addition to a growing roster of new restaurants in the area.
OBrien said the restaurant’s staff is excited about working with the reservation to bring its traditions to a wider audience.
“This is a very special place,” she continued.
Follow the author of this story on Twitter: @michaeltaison”
To be able to offer our own culture, and to be able share that with others is a huge thing for us.”
Follow the author of this story on Twitter: @michaeltaison