A rapidly-growing number of chefs and culinary experts are fighting to break down racial barriers in the food industry, and make their mark on American cuisine.
In celebration of #blackhistorymonth, we’re sharing a few of the most inspiring black chefs that have changed food forever.
Mariya Russell is the first black woman ever to receive a Michelin star! As head chef at the uber-popular Chicago bar, Kumiko and its sister restaurant, Kikko. She specializes in plates that authentically showcase Japan’s rich technique, ingredients, and flavors. Her contribution to the restaurant's success has contributed to winning the Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Restaurant Award.
The first Black woman to be elected to the Culinary Institute of America board, Barbara Smith worked her whole life to break racial barriers as a model, and later as a famous restaurateur.
Barbara was well-known for her restaurant in Manhattan, B. Smith’s, which opened in 1986 and immediately attracted a large following among influential black New Yorkers–who welcomed it as a delicious, fashionable gathering spot. "The who's who of black Manhattan eat there regularly," Essence magazine wrote in 1995.
Often (fondly) dubbed "Black Martha Stewart," Smith was a lifestyle icon thanks to her cookbooks, restaurants, home collection line, and weekly TV show. Barbara Smith’s favorite motto was, "Whatever you do, do it with style.”
Not only is Marcus a best-selling cookbook author, but he's also a media personality and one of the world's most famous chefs.
As an executive chef in New York City, Marcus Samuelsson became the youngest chef in history to get a three-star rating by The New York Times at just 24 years old.
Using food, culture, and history, he seeks to highlight the diversity of Black cooking throughout America. He’s also written one of our favorite cookbooks!
Patrick Clark was born in Brooklyn, NYC and was raised in Canarsie, a residential neighborhood in Brooklynn, New York. He trained and worked under three-star chef Michel Guérard in France, and then in 1988, he opened his own restaurant, Metro, on the Upper East Side.
Clark was the first Black chef to win a James Beard best chef award. He was the head chef at the legendary Tavern on the Green and later went to work at Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Hay-Adams Hotel. He later catered meals at the White House. When he passed away in 1998, his obituary called him “one of America’s most beloved chefs.”
Edna Lewis was a renowned chef, culinary ambassador, and (according to many) the “Godmother of Southern Cooking.” As a talented chef and author, Edna Lewis inspired Americans to appreciate southern meals in a brand new way.
After seeing the need for more high-quality cookbooks and creative Southern recipes, Lewis started working on her own. At the time, women chefs weren't that common, and black women chefs were even more rare, but Lewis wanted to bring fresh, seasonal ingredients into American kitchens.
Her first book, The Edna Lewis Cookbook–featuring over 100–was an instant bestseller. According to the National Women's History Museum, Edna was one of the first black women from the South to write a cookbook without hiding her identity.
In addition to being an acclaimed opera singer, Chef Alexander Smalls has also won Grammy and Tony awards. Using equal passion and ingenuity, this food innovator creates culinary masterpieces and beautiful music. The Afro-Asian-American edibles that he creates seem so right, as if they have always existed.
As he turns Low Country fare into elevated cuisine, Smalls also pays tribute to the music and heritage that helped shape his identity in South Carolina.
Carla Hall may just be one of the most visible Black chefs in America as a result of her national recognition from Top Chef and The Chew. To her, cooking with love means preparing food from the soul to nourish others' souls.
While modeling in Europe, the Nashville native fell in love with food, and she decided to become a chef, blending classic French technique with Southern influence.
After winning "Top Chef" season 13, Kwame Onwuachi (Forbes 30 Under 30) was ready to change the world of food forever.
A few years ago, he wrote a memoir called "Notes From a Young Black Chef." The same year, he also won a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef.Having trained at top restaurants in the country, his food at Kith/Kin pays homage to Afro-Caribbean and Creole food, as well as the African diaspora.