The man President Obama refers to as “The Crustmaster,” in reference to his tasty pies, is working with students on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation by helping them reconnect to the traditional food of their ancestors.
Bill Yosses, who served as the White House Executive Pastry Chef under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, attended the Tribe’s Buffalo Summit north of Poplar in the coming year.
The first-ever Summit showcased the Tribes’ transplanted, genetically-pure Yellowstone buffalo herd for a week-long event with seminars on native language, food, culture as it all relates to the buffalo. More than 800 school students from across the reservation attended the Summit.
Yosses set up his temporary kitchen inside a tipi at the Summit and produced some dishes that fused traditional foods of the Northern Plains tribes with modern food items.
Among the foods the students tried were buffalo chili with meat, wild turnips, corn and a wild rice garnish; a cooked buffalo heart marinated in apple cider vinegar and salt; and a hash made from apples, wild rice and morel mushrooms with juices from the roasted buffalo.
“I wanted them to see the meat and how delicious it is,” he said. “Everyone ate it and enjoyed it.”
Yosses, author of several cookbooks including Desserts for Dummies, is working with Harvard University’s summer program for Native American students who are studying the connection between science and food.
Among the students that attended the summer program this year was a group of Fort Peck high school students. Partnered with Harvard graduate students, the youth would work with traditional food products and draw science lessons from the cooking process.
Traditional Native American ingredients were used for the program and its studies, including corn, chilies, cacao (chocolate), and other foods.
“Not only are the kids engaged but it’s a way for them to understand the science through a first-hand experience,” Yosses said.
The chef is working on his third cookbook and plans to incorporate some traditional food items and recipes into the publication. Besides “Desserts for Dummies,” Yosses has also written “The Perfect Finish.”
He will be returning to the reservation this fall to work with the students and learn more about the traditional foods of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes.
Yosses was hired by former First Lady Laura Bush in 2007 after working at New York restaurants Montrachet and Bouley. Mrs. Bush directed him to make more healthful desserts, and in smaller portions, that were only served sparingly to the first family, according to a March 2014 New York Times article.
The chef, an Ohio native, became more focused on the relationship between food and health when current First Lady Michelle Obama took on the healthy food platform for America’s youth.
He began experimenting with alternatives to butter and cream and incorporated honey and agave in place of sugar and fruit puree instead of butter. Whole grains were also added to desserts.
He was also inspired by the White House garden where he used the fruits and honey, from the property’s beehives, to make oatmeal bars, baked apples and pear-quince cobblers.
Yosses earned his nickname, The Crustmaster, given to him by President Obama who enjoyed the five or six pies the chef made during Thanksgiving dinners at the White House. What makes a good pie crust? “Lard,” he said.
The chef now resides in New York since retiring from the White House position in June of last year.