Chicago Tribune: Black Chefs

Marcus Samuelsson

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.

3 comments on “Chicago Tribune: Black Chefs
  1. Actually, all of the chefs referenced have mentored more than young black chefs. Many black chefs will not receive an iota of commercial attention b/c they are not commercial or TV chefs. Many do not cook “soul food” like the late Patrick Clark who was French-trained. There are many reasons why black chefs are not celebrated in our communities and the primary one is that cooking was considered demeaning work until recently. The double-edged sword is that there has been a major increase in minority enrollment in culinary programs, however, many of those young chefs want to be TV stars.

  2. benita wheeler says:

    it is shame they are not more african american well known chefs because a chef life is not easy one. it would be great to have more people of color out there.

  3. Vincent D. Silmon, Sr says:

    Vincent D. Silmon, Sr
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    The ARK of St. Sabina, a community youth center,are looking for African American Chefs for an event we are hosting February 2013. ‘The Taste of Diaspora’ will feature African American Chefs in Chicago preparing their signature cuisines. We are a non profit agency and this event will be a fund raiser for our youth programs here at the ARK of St. Sabina. I am requesting information on locating several African American Chefs for this event. Please contact me directly at 708-813-8227.


    Vincent D. Silmon,Sr
    Youth Development Coordinator
    The ARK of St. Sabina
    1210 West 78th Place
    Chicago, Il 60620

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