Great African American Chefs

February 9, 2021

Black or African American history is American history. Black history, poetry, art, culture, activism, music, radical ideas, and achievements have been suppressed, distorted and erased for centuries due to constant and pernicious racism and white supremacy in the US. By actively investing in learning, celebrating, and lifting up African American voices and history at FareStart, we challenge anti-blackness and begin to become an organization based in our values of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

FareStart Executive Chef Timothy Delling shared the following information about some African American chefs who are not nearly as famous as they should be. He said, "Ever wonder how French fries made their way to the states? Ever wonder why macaroni and cheese is such a soul food staple? I’ll bet you never imagined it was a chef of color who brought us the French delicacy crème brûlée."

James Hemings 1765 - 1801

  • First American to train as a chef in France
  • Cooked the historic meal between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson (immortalized in the musical Hamilton in the song “The Room Where It Happens”)
  • Introduced European-style macaroni and cheese, French fries, crème brûlée and ice cream to America.

More info here & here.

Abby Fisher 1831 - 1890

  • One of the first Black cookbook authors
  • Her cookbook was originally published in 1881 and reprinted in 1995
  • Successful caterer and businessperson

More info here & here.

Zephyr Wright 1905 - 1988

  • Personal chef for President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Civil Rights Activist
  • Told her firsthand stories about discrimination to Johnson, which is thought to have influenced his signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

More info here, here & here.

Edna Lewis 1916 - 2006

  • One of the most influential figures in modern Southern cooking
  • Renowned author and chef and Civil Rights Activist
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, International Association of Culinary Professionals
  • James Beard Living Legend Award (their first such award)
  • Named Grande Dame by Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international organization of female culinary professionals.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) (their first such award)
  • Honored by the creation of a United States postal stamp with her image

More info here.

Mariya Russell

  • The first Black woman to earn a Michelin Star in 2020 for her work as chef de cuisine of the popular Chicago bar Kumiko and its sister restaurant, Kikko.

More info here & here.

Darryl Evans

  • The first African American to participate in the International Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany, where he won three gold medals and one silver medal in 1988 and 1992.
  • He was later appointed executive chef, a position he held at several restaurants, country clubs and four-star establishments.

More info here & here.

Leah Chase 1923 - 2019

More info here & here.

Supporting African American chefs right here in the Seattle area is easy and delicious. Consider ordering take-out from Trey Lamont of Jerk Shack, Kristi Brown of Communion, Donna Moodie of Marjorie, Edouardo Jordan of JuneBaby and Salare, Daisley Gordon of Café Campagne, Sabrina Tinsley of Osteria La Spiga and Makini Howell of Plum Bistro.