A long tradition of hosting special events, educational food camps, as well as studying and teaching Ho-Chunk cultural food has spurred the opening of a new fusion restaurant in Baraboo.
Invictus Voices features Ho-Chunk family roots for the Funmaker extended family, which runs the restaurant at located at 618 Oak St. together.
Chief Chef Rhonda Funmaker said the name is a tribute to her late husband and is a special name for the family.
The cooking includes traditional Native American ingredients and cooking techniques fused with contemporary foods and techniques.
“Invictus is actually Latin. It characterizes my late husband Kenneth and means unconquered,” Rhonda Funmaker said. “When he died in 2008 we lost everything but he always told us keep going straight ahead and we did.”
“Invictus” is a poem by Ernest Henley, the theme of which is to persevere when confronted by difficulty.
Funmaker and her partners and family members Sarina Falcon, Jodee Smith, Sampson Funmaker, John Holst Jr., Chris Holst, Seneca Funmaker, Dusty Morrow, Sequoia Garvin and Casey Lee enjoy the eclectic Baraboo food scene and wanted to add to the mix.
Menus are crafted daily, as is the route for what the owners call “seed to table dining.”
They visit the farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays to select fresh organic food. They use non-GMO food and for the most part cook with no gluten. They fuse traditional Native food with many cooking styles. The owners also say they try to source their products locally to circulate money in their home community.
“You’ll find wild rice in our dishes that we grow in a community garden and harvest just for the restaurant,” Jodee Smith said. “Native fusion will include things like pheasant with wild rice and sausage, wild game lasagna, milkweed soup and squash and corn soup.”
The restaurant also uses a unique ground meat made with venison, buffalo and pork.
Fusion can be found in the ways Ho-Chunk food is prepared and presented. The restaurant serves traditional Ho-Chunk fry bread, but adds components of American, Italian, Chinese, Greek and Mexican food.
The restaurant’s interior is peppered with art. Everything from survival art or useable art such as baskets, carved wooden bowls, spoons and harvest tables. On many days, Kenneth Funmaker’s grandson, Sampson, plays a hand-crafted flute for patrons.
Food always has been an important component in the Funmaker family but wasn’t brought to the general public until the family was asked to combine traditional Native cooking with contemporary flair for a festival in Madison.
“We knew fusion cooking was a big niche but we really doubted it would work,” Smith said. “We built an open fire and made fry bread. I was told to keep on cooking as fast as I could and not look back out at the crowd. There were four lines a block long at the Capitol square and we were afraid we would run out of food.”
The restaurant was asked to prepare a special menu for the June 12 Circus of the Chefs fundraiser at Circus World. Smith said she didn’t realize menu items were judged and was surprised to be called to the event stage near the end to receive an award for best dessert.
“We are very proud of our commemorative silver dish and medals but we didn’t do it to win awards, we did it be become a part of and get out in the community and community events,” she said.
The restaurant changes its lunch and dinner menus daily, posting that day’s selections on its Facebook page.
Service is something the family knows is pivotal for a successful restaurant, and they hope their brand of Ho-Chunk family gatherings will be apparent in their service.
“We respect our elders, love children and love entertaining,” Rhonda Funmaker said. “Food is something you want to share in a special way. We have special items for kids and elders. We also love greeting people as our guests and so far customers seem to like our Native way. It is difficult to get this in our greater society. We also want to know what people don’t like. Feedback is so important.”