Jason Hill grew up on the rez in Camp Antelope, a few miles from Coleville, California. Having worked as a drug and alcohol counselor for the nearby Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) in Reno, Nevada for nearly 10 years, Hill is looking to now follow his dream of owning a restaurant, which he will call the “House of Frybread.”
Though Hill says he grew up in an isolated community where big dreams are not often realized, his strong cultural upbringing has given him the motivation to succeed. While working for the RSIC, Hill earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services and a Master’s Degree in Management.
Hill wants the House of Frybread to be more than a restaurant in Reno, he wants it to be a place where the community can come together with poetry readings, Karaoke, beading and regalia-making workshops, pow wow singing for kids, and language classes.
Hill, who is of Northern Paiute (Ongabi Dicutta, or salt-eater people) and Western Shoshone descent, has met with a successful business mentor that has warned him nearly 90 percent of new restaurants fail, but he has his seal of approval. Hill has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to start his business. He has raised $1,585 towards his $37,500 goal.
“My mentor has over 50 years of experience; I can’t say his name because he can’t endorse anybody on record. Be he says he has 100 percent faith in me,” Hill said.
What is the restaurant you want to create and where would it be?
The House of Frybread will feature contemporary Native American cuisine. The main dish will, of course, be the Indian taco. I have, however, been experimenting with a variety of toppings in addition to the traditional Indian taco. I’ve developed some pretty interesting creations, like a grilled chicken and green pepper taco, shredded pork with avocado, as well as many dessert tacos like a banana cream taco, and Nutella with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. I’ve even taken traditional fry bread and infused various ingredients creating a jalapeno cheddar fry bread, sweet fry bread, and fruit infused fry bread!
My brother is an executive chef, and he will be preparing dishes, and I will be cooking and preparing dishes as well. I have been working on and preparing these dishes for over seven years. People try these dishes and go crazy over them!
Aside from the food, the House of Frybread will host weekly community events… I even plan to have a part-time tutor available to help kids with homework. There will also be monthly events like Native stand-up comedy, poetry readings, and a hand drum singing contest.
I will be creating summer intern positions so local Native youth can come and learn how to operate a business. Finally, I will be creating a college scholarship for Native youth. This truly is more than just a restaurant. The restaurant is the business side, but fostering a positive community and giving back to the people, that’s the passion.
Is there an existing structure you are going to upgrade?
Yes. The main property I am interested in is adjacent to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. This is a major benefit as it is convenient for tribal members, yet on a major street in downtown Reno, with great visibility.
How long have you dreamed of making this happen?
I have actually been working on this project for over seven years! I’ve traveled to many reservations and tribal communities and I always hear people talking about how cool it would be to have an Indian taco shop in town.
Even though the idea has been there for years, I lacked the business experience and education necessary to make the dream a reality. I am now prepared and ready to pounce like a cheetah!
You’re doing a number of giveaways for supporters—how is that possible?
Cousins. I have a lot of cousins. I have an amazing family, and almost everyone beads or does some sort of craft. I also personally make hand drums and moccasins. When I was thinking of the kind of rewards I could offer backers I wanted to offer something personal to people, to really show appreciation for their support.
How you are going to beat the odds, kick butt and make this happen?
I’ve been beating odds and kicking butt my whole life! Sadly, my story isn’t that unique in regards to Native people. I was taken from my mother at age 5 and placed in non-Indian foster homes. Like many Natives, I had a traumatic childhood. However, I am the man I am today because of those experiences. I have healed through years of ceremony, and love of family and friends. I guess that’s why I’m so passionate about preserving culture and giving back to the people. I am an Indian man, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be. I love my people, and I will always do anything I can—use my talents and education to lift up our community and create something better for the next seven generations.