NYU Steinhardt News

Student Spotlight: Q & A with Food Studies Graduate Student Alex Jimerson


Second year Food Studies graduate student Alex Jimerson was recently mentioned in a New York Times article, profiling chef Sean Sherman, a pioneer in the movement to redefine Native American cuisine. We chatted with Alex about his background, what brought him to the program here at Steinhardt, and how he sees his coursework and time in the program shaping his future career.


How did you get involved with working with Sean Sherman, the chef who was profiled in the New York Times article?

I first met Sean at the 13th Annual Indigenous Farming Conference held at White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. I introduced myself and we briefly talked about the significance of indigenous food systems. I followed his updates on social media when he was hosting the Indigenous Foods Retreat this summer. I knew I had to be involved, working and learning from Chef Sherman was a rewarding experience, it motivated me to contribute to the movement around Native American cuisine and foods.  


What brought you to the food studies department at NYU Steinhardt?

Initially I wanted to be a catalyst of change in food policy at the tribal level, advocating for Native and Indigenous peoples to reclaim and bring life to their traditional food systems. While food policy is still a goal, I look at other avenues where I can be an agent of direct change and influence among native communities. 


What are some of your favorite aspects of the program?

I enjoy engaging with my classmates about their interests, as food studies students we come from diverse working/career backgrounds. It's motivating listening what led them to the food studies program. Carving out your own space within the realm of food studies is highly recommended because the program is inter-disciplinary, allowing students to understand food issues from political, cultural, and economic perspectives. 


What are your areas of personal interest in Food Studies?

My passions about food studies are reclaiming indigenous food systems, deconstructing a colonized taste palate and putting collective knowledge into practices centering around native trade routes and gift-economies. I enjoy the conversation revolving around authenticity of cuisine. Chefs and restaurateurs cooking outside of their cultural domain and who are deemed gatekeepers of authenticity strike me as fascinating points of discussion. 


How do you think your background contributes to your food worldview?

The influence of my native culture and upbringing of engaging with the teachings from my elders has solidified my food worldview to see foods as gifts from the natural world. Gifts that we are to share generously, gifts we are to respect and express thanksgiving for, gifts to be protected from commodification and exploitation. Becoming aware and acting upon the interconnections from self, food and land ensure the well-being of life on earth.