Lest we forget that racial barriers still exist, even if they are behind closed doors, an article in The Chicago Tribune serves as a reminder of the hurdles African and African American chefs have to go through.
The article includes interviews with Marcus Samuelsson, Devin McDavid, and Tanya Holland on their experiences as black chefs. Marcus says, “I would get asked: ‘Are you the dishwasher?’ Because that was the slight window where a lot of kitchens would have a black person. …”
His point is that African-American chefs have not been celebrated even in their own communities.
“When African-Americans had the chance to send kids to college, the first thing they said was, ‘You aren’t going to be cooking, cleaning or serving. You’re going to be lawyers, doctors. Cooking has a stigma in the black community it doesn’t have other places.
That’s one answer.
Another is black people have always cooked but have never been acknowledged” He mentions the late Edna Lewis, Sylvia Woods, and Patrick Clark, whose son, Preston Clark was recently profiled by the San Francisco Chronicle. (See also Super Chef on African-American Women Chefs.)
Tanya comments on the stereotypes among hosts on TV food shows:
Even on Food Network, they were dumbing us down. I was in the soul kitchen, so they wanted me to act sassy. I’m from suburbia, I’m educated, I have this plethora of experience. That wasn’t the way I was going to act. …
All three chefs are mentors, role models, and leaders for younger black Chefs working their way through kitchens.