10 African-American Chefs You Need to Know About

In the USA, there are approximately 941,000 individuals employed as chefs. How many of these chefs can you name off the top of your head? You may have heard of famous figures like Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Wolfgang Puck. However, can you name any celebrity African-American chefs? 

Even though every one out of five chefs in The United States is African-American, according to the Bureau of Labor, Black cooks are socially isolated, discriminated against, and have a lack of representation in the media. While the Black Lives Matter movement continues to be a pressing topic in our current times, efforts are being made to bring attention to black narratives, specifically in the culinary world.

Despite facing many hurdles, African-American chefs have beaten the odds and created a platform for others, as well as continued to break racial barriers. In a time where representation is important for our society and the younger generation, take a moment to support such individuals by learning more about their background, passion, and get a taste of their cooking. 

Here are ten African American chefs who have made great names for themselves in the culinary world.

Carla Hall, Washington, D.C.

african american chefs
Top Chef Carla Hall works at Smithsonian National Museum for African American History

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Carla Hall spent much of her career fighting for visibility in the culinary industry. She landed appearances on Top Chef, The Chew, Good Morning America and many more. She has authored three cookbooks centered around soul food, and one of them has received an NAACP Image Awards nomination.

Order Carla Hall’s award-winning cookbook

Hall believes food connects everyone and strives to communicate through her work and cooking. Hall is the Culinary Ambassador for Sweet Home Cafe at the Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. There, she works to promote and connect the experience of the museum through the history of the food.

Leah Chase, Louisiana 

african american chefs
Chase had customers ranging from past presidents to freedom riders

Leah Chase is the nation’s preeminent Creole chef who brought New Orleans Creole cooking to international attention. After high school, she took a job at a French Quarter restaurant where it sparked a deep love of food in her. Alongside other numerous rewards, Chase was inducted into the James Beard Foundation in 2010. She received awards from the NAACP, National Council of Negro Women and Southern Foodway Alliance.

The late 96-year-old was the chief chef at her restaurant, Dooky Chase’s. It once was a hotspot for civil rights organizers to plan their course of action in the 1950s. Several famous figures, like Barack Obama and James Baldwin, have dined at Dooky Chase’s. If you’re craving classic, Creole cuisine, be sure to visit!

Todd Richards, Georgia

african american chefs
Todd Richards is a Georgia icon

The two-time James Beard Award semifinalist is a fixture of the culinary scene in Atlanta. Todd Richards worked at several fine-dining restaurants including The Four Seasons Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead before opening his own – Richards’ Southern Fried in 2016. Here, guests can have a taste of unique spin on casual southern dishes like fried chicken tenders, mac and cheese, black eyed peas, and chicken and waffle wings.

Just recently, Richards released his first cookbook – Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution, which includes roughly 150 recipes. Each page highlights the versatility of humble ingredients like onions, corn and tomatoes. It also aids in transforming them into delicious one-of-a-kind meals. Check out his cookbook below.

Order Richard’s cookbook filled with 150 recipes

Marisa Baggett, Tennessee

african american chefs
Baggett says expensive equipment or exotic ingredients aren’t necessary for good sushi

Marisa Baggett is the first female African-American to graduate from the California Sushi Academy. With her mission to share the art of making sushi, she has authored two cookbooks – Sushi Secrets and Vegetarian Sushi Secrets.

For three years, she worked at Do Sushi Bar and Lounge in Memphis, where she showcased her delicate skill in sashimi, nigiri-zushi, makimono and kaiseki. Though Baggett has since stepped down from her role, she is now focusing on sharing the art of sushi as a traveling itamae (Japanese chef) by teaching classes at markets, private homes and at events.

Get this kit to make your own sushi at home

Erick Williams, Illinois

african american chefs
Chef Erick Williams wan named one of “16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America” by The New York Times

Erick Williams was influenced by his great-grandmother’s Southern cooking and her insistence on connecting with anyone who sat at her table. He learned that sharing a meal is a universal expression of respect and dignity. The Chicago native is currently nominated for a James Beard Award for best chef in the Great Lakes region. 

Williams is the chef/owner of Virtue restaurant in Chicago. Since its opening in 2018, the restaurant has won Best New Restaurants in America for its twist on classic Southern American food. He also currently works on his personal goal of racial inclusivity and training young people of color in the industry.

Mariya Russell, Illinois 

african american chefs
Mariya Russell is the first African-American female to receive a Michelin Star

This Ohio native chef found her passion for cooking at the young age of 14. Since then, Mariya Russell’s love for food led her to receive a Michelin Star in 2019. That made her the first African-American woman to do so. Russell’s unique style of cooking is omakase, which flirts with Japanese methodology and fully controls a person’s dining experience. Anyone can immerse themselves in this experience at the previous restaurant she worked at, Kumiko and Kikko, where she served elegant seven-course meals.

Since winning a Micheline Star and stepping down from her sous chef position at Kumiko and Kikko, Russell has plans to use her platform to mentor other aspiring Black chefs. Be sure to follow her at @mariyaleniserussel on Instagram.

Rodney Scott, South Carolina

Rodney Scott specializes in whole-hog barbecuing in the Eastern Carolina tradition

Not many people can say that they have cooked a whole hog at the age of 11, but Rodney Scott sure can! Since his first hog, he has become one of the most famed pit-masters in the country. Scott has made appearances on TV-shows such as Parts Unknown, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and at countless food festivals.

In 2017, Scott turned his craft into a full-fledged restaurant called Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ, with locations in Charleston, Birmingham and (opening soon) Atlanta. Here, you can literally order a whole pig, or if you want something lighter, pit-cooked chicken and spare ribs. 

Dolester Miles, Alabama

african american chefs
Dolester Miles was named Most Outstanding Pastry Chef in America at the James Beard Awards

This world-class pastry chef engaged in her craft for over 30 years before winning her first James Beard Award. It’s safe to say that Dolester Miles is not only one of the greatest pastry talents in the South, but also in the United States. If you have one chance to try her baking, order the Coconut Pecan Cake, which is a nutty and tropical. However, Miles is versatile in her experience and can create any dessert from classic southern pound cake to traditional French dacquoise.

Mile’s inspiration for creating pastries stems from her mother, who taught her how to bake. When in Birmingham, Alabama, stop by the Highlands Bar and Grill to try her pastries.

A stand mixer is a must have for at home baking

BJ Dennis, South Carolina

BJ Dennis specializes in authentic Gullah-Geechee cooking

Many consider BJ Dennis the country’s leading ambassador of Gullah-Geechee cooking, which is a grain-based, hearty cuisine that is usually paired with seafood. To keep the African-Gullah culture alive, Dennis travels across the nation and cooks at pop-ups and events. He has also made appearances on Top Chef and Parts Unknown to educate viewers on the history and culinary techniques of the low country’s cuisine.

To learn more about Gullah-Geechee cuisine and to keep up with Dennis’ next pop-up event, check out his Instagram page.

Edouardo Jordan, Washington

Edouardo Jordan’s inspiration comes from his Sunday suppers and grandmother’s meals

Since the opening of his second restaurant, JuneBaby, Edouardo Jordan received Eater’s Best New Restaurants in 2017 and Food & Wine’s Best Restaurant of 2018. He also received a three-star review from the New York Times. Jordan was also a double winner at the 2018 James Beard Awards.

Eduardo explores his Southern roots and the cuisine of the African-American diaspora with JuneBaby’s celebration of Black, Southern food. He also celebrates the breadth of southern cuisine by showing the world that it can be high-brow and low-brow. Take the time to experience how food can showcase humble West African beginnings at Seattle based JuneBaby.

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

Cherry Blossoms at the Ritz in Washington D.C

The exact time of floral blooms can be hard to predict due to March weather in Washington, D.C. That, however, does not stop the season from starting early at the Ritz Carlton!

Welcome to the Ritz

ritz carlton dc
Hand-Painted Cherry Blossom Mural

As soon as I walked through the elegant lobby, the scent of cherry blossoms embodies me with happiness. The hotel’s signature scent, Sakura (meaning cherry blossom in Japanese) subtly fills the air, as cherry blossom flower arrangements brighten the public spaces. Downstairs in the conference area is an incredible hand-painted mural. The mural depicts a wind-blown cherry blossom tree set against a metallic gold background. This is perhaps the most photographed location at the hotel! When visitors come to D.C., they want to take home a memorable moment with the backdrop of the blossoms, even if they didn’t get to see them in bloom.

The Westend Bistro

cherry blossom cocktail
Cherry Themed Cocktail

Located off the main lobby is Westend Bistro, a vibrant modern bar that serves lunch and dinner. I was told that it took the mixologist months of perfection to create the house drink, Sakura cocktail. A pale red colored gin-infused drink arrives in a cold martini glass. It has layers of flavors starting with the sweetness of cherries, the boldness of Sakura tea, to dryness of the gin and bitterness of grapefruits. It is flavorful in a way that one could drink a few glasses and only later realize the alcohol content.

Westend Bistro under the supervision of Chef de Cuisine Adam Barnett was named Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants for 2015, so I have to try the food. The Kabocha Squash Salad arrives as a hearty, healthy treat with baby kales and spinach, grilled Honeycrisp apples, pumpkin seed granola, and hazelnut vinaigrette.

Book a Room, Plant a Tree

give a cherry tree
Thank You, Card, from the Plant a Tree Program

When I arrived in my room, I found a card made with recycled paper at the desk. It says “a cherry tree has been planted in your honor.” The Ritz Carlton Washington, D.C. partners with the National Arbor Day Foundation‘s Cherry Blossom Give-A-Tree program. Guests can purchase an overnight room package that includes the tree donation.

Afternoon Tea Time

high cherry tea at the ritz
Tea time spread at the Ritz

The afternoon is a time to experience high tea at the Lobby Lounge. Over Cherry Blossom Festival, they offer a lovely Sakura blend tea that is specially designed for the hotel. Notes of bergamot, black currant, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, soft vanilla, and white musk are complimented with, well, of course, cherry blossom flowers. The tea is served in a traditional Japanese cast iron teapot (tetsubin) and cups, with sliced lemons and rose petals on the side. It is refreshing and deep, without an overwhelming floral presence.

Tea comes with a surprise dessert amenity that is not listed on the menu. Homemade little cherry tart square and chocolate-covered cookie sticks resembling tree barks with cherry flowers, placed in a Japanese vase look too beautiful to eat. This presentation is worth taking photos of, even if you are not a dessert person.

cherry chocolate bark
Delicious Cherry Treats

Exploring the Festival

After enjoying all the cherry blossom themes at the Ritz Carlton, it was time to explore the festival-related events in the area. The hotel’s concierge guides me to a list of events including parades, runs, and banquets organized by the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Go Eat Give is Coming to Washington DC

We are very excited to launch our second Go Eat Give chapter in Washington, DC starting March 2015! Over the past few years, we have received requests from all over the world to bring our programs to their cities. While our international travel opportunities are open to everyone, monthly events have been held only in Atlanta so far. It is with great pleasure that I am announcing our expansion into Washington DC, a city rich with diverse restaurants, people and knowledge!

Here are some ways to get involved with Go Eat Give DC …

Attend Our Launch Event

Join us at our launch-party on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 from 6:30-9:30pm at the new Hierarchy Special Exhibition Gallery attached to Napoleon Bistro & Lounge (1847 Columbia Rd, NW) in Washington, DC. Myself, board member, Lisa Waters and event planning intern, Austin Hill will be there to greet you and share information about our upcoming programs.

1422894204182

Hierarchy’s 2-star Michelin Chef Gerard Pangaud, the youngest chef ever to receive 2 stars, will personally prepare light refreshments for guests. Artwork from Michael Owen, creator and lead artist of the Baltimore Love Project, will be featured on the gallery walls. There will also be a cash bar and goody bags provided. The event is FREE to attend by RSVP is required. Click here for more information.

Volunteer 

We are looking for DC based volunteers, interns and board members to help make strategic decisions, recruit members and plan events. If you are interested in becoming a part of a growing international nonprofit organization, send us your resume. Perks include cultural interaction, good food and hands-on experience. Email to info@goeatgive.com

volunteer at go eat give

Stay Involved

Participate in our local activities including Destination Dinners and Volunteer Vacations. Join Go Eat Give to receive discounts and FREE access for the entire year. Sign up to get newsletter updates, join our MeetUp group and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t want to miss another event!

DC Launch Flyer