Sly Fox Den 2 Chef Sherry Pocknett Earns Spot on James Beard’s 2023 Finalist List
The Indigenous chef represents the Mashpee Wampanoag people through her native American fusion cuisine, served at her Charlestown restaurant.
Rhode Island made it to the short list. For those who don’t know, that means that a Rhode Island chef earned a spot on the Finalist list for the 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards for Best Chef: Northeast. And what better person to make the list than Indigenous chef Sherry Pocknett, chef at Sly Fox Den Too in Charlestown, who represents Indigenous culture through her cuisine. It is a first finalist nod for her, but two other chefs earned spots on the semifinalist list, including Robert Andreozzi, chef-owner of Pizza Marvin, and Milena Pagán, chef-owner of Little Sister and Rebelle Artisan Bagels.
Pocknett is a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. She is currently battling cancer and undergoing chemo treatments. She recently wrote in a Facebook post: “I am numb with joy. Just to be nominated for this prestigious award has me baffled. Best chef of the Northeast! This is a lifetime achievement for me just for them to mention my name chef Sherry Pocknett.”
“I’m still blessed. I’m still happy. I’m through the roof grateful because tomorrow is not promised today,” Pocknett continued.
Rhode Island was built entirely on Native land. The Narragansetts, the Wampanoags, the Nipmucs and the Niantics lived here for generations before Roger Williams. You can learn more about our state’s Indigenous roots at the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, which is the state’s only museum operated by Indigenous people. The museum’s mission is to “educate the public and promote thoughtful dialogue regarding Indigenous history, culture, arts, and Mother Earth and connect to Native issues of today.” To learn more about the history of Indigenous cuisine in our country, check out this post by Kaitlyn Murray: “Chef Sean Sherman Visits Johnson & Wales to Share the Beauty and Plight of Indigenous Food Systems.”
In previous years, many Rhode Island chefs have earned sequential semifinalist and finalist nods for Best Chef: Northeast, but never nabbed the award, including Ben Sukle who garnered four appearances on the long list, two of which were for representing Oberlin. He made it to the finalist list in 2018 and 2019 for Best Chef: Northeast for Oberlin, and in 2017 for birch, and as a semifinalist for birch in 2014.
Persimmon chef-owner Champe Speidel was nominated seven times in the semifinalist category for Best Chef: Northeast, the most recent after moving Persimmon from Bristol to Providence. Persimmon also earned semifinalist recognition for “Outstanding Service” in 2013 and 2014. James Mark, former owner of north (and Big King) in Providence was also a Best Chef: Northeast 2020 semifinalist for Big King, and a 2019 semifinalist and finalist. And Matthew Jennings, who once owned the renowned Farmstead in Providence, earned at least four nominations for Best Chef: Northeast, including three times on the short list of nominees.
The one Rhode Islander to win James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast title was Al Forno’s late George Germon and Johanne Killeen in 1993 (Killeen also earned a separate finalist nomination for Outstanding Chef in 2018).