Black female chefs are at the bottom of the food chain, according to a number of professional and self-taught skillet slayers who talked to EBONY.
“The food world needs to step into the 21st century,” says chef Sarah Kirnon, who owns and operates Miss Ollie’s, an Afro-Caribbean restaurant in Oakland, Calif. “Women are underfunded when looking for investors to open up restaurants or food-related businesses.”
Yet ironically, women (and specifically, Black women) were the pioneers of many of the nation’s food traditions. In fact, a Black woman, the late Edna Lewis, is widely acknowledged as the matriarch of the farm-to-table movement and “the Grande Dame” of Southern cooking as we know it today. Kirnon praises Lewis as her chef idol but notes that few are aware of the impact Lewis and other African-American women have had on the industry.
“Our achievements used to be swept under the rug; now, we’re really starting to get our well-deserved props,” says northern Virginia-based self-taught private chef and food blogger Chef Resha of CarnalDish. “Being a female chef means you have to work harder than everyone else.”
“Black female chefs are continuing to shape the world,” insists Nyesha Arrington, a former contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, who recently opened her own restaurant, Leona, in Venice, Calif. And like their predecessors, Arrington hopes they, too, will empower the next wave of Black female chefs.
Expect to see more from these culinary artists as they continue to defy the industry’s outdated status quo.
Orange-Henny Wings | serves 8
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon each: sweet paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne and black pepper
1 tablespoon each: kosher salt, granulated garlic and granulated onion
4 pounds chicken wings, rinsed and patted dry
Orange-Henny BBQ Sauce
1 bottle (12-ounce) chili sauce or ketchup
2 tablespoons each: mustard and soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped
¾ cup each: Hennessy and brown sugar
¼ cup each: orange juice, honey and apple cider vinegar
⅓ cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon each: crushed red pepper flakes, smoked paprika
1⁄8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Granulated garlic, to taste
Granulated onion, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1⁄8 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine baking powder and seasonings (first 8 ingredients). Evenly coat chicken with powder mixture. Bake chicken 20 minutes. Flip chicken over, resume baking for additional 20 minutes. Flip again, bake for 10–15 minutes or until completely crispy. Toss chicken with the Orange-Henny BBQ Sauce.
Sauce: Mix all ingredients in a saucepan; place over medium-low heat. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20–30 minutes, until sauce has thickened. (Optional: Stir in additional ounce of Hennessy after sauce thickens).
CarnalDish | Food Blog
Staple Cuisine: Comfort food
Proudest Achievement: “I remember graduating from high school with no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life. Fast- forward to being a chef who has cooked for countless celebrities and brands, made several television appearances and cultivated a large organic following by just being myself. ”
Signature Recipe: Orange-Henny Wings
Adult Frosted Flakes | serves 4
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pint each Jasmine rice, brown rice, milk and cream
⅓ cup brown butter
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3½ tablespoons cinnamon
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
Corn flakes, crushed, for garnish
Powdered sugar for garnish
Toast dry Jasmine rice in coconut oil until golden brown; set aside. Boil brown rice in 1½ quarts of water. After 25 minutes, add Jasmine rice and continue boiling for an additional 20–30 minutes. Drain excess water, add remaining ingredients except for the plain butter, froth and corn flakes. Simmer over low heat for 15–30 minutes, until rice is slightly mushy. Add butter. Serve in bowl, layering pudding with rum, froth and corn flakes. *Froth: Heat 1 cup cream, 2 cups milk, 4 ounces condensed milk and a pinch of salt in saucepan over low-medium heat. Once warm, use a hand mixer to blend until foamy.
14 ounces salt cod
11 ounces all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
3 sprigs thyme, de-stemmed
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
½ Scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons baking powder
Oil for frying
Fresh lime wedges
Cover cod with cold water, soak overnight. The next day, drain. Place cod in saucepan; cover with cold water, bring to a boil. Drain and repeat until fish is rehydrated. Drain, break into pieces; place in a food processor, pulse until flaky. Mix flour and milk in a bowl; stir in cod, thyme, scallions, shallot and garlic. Season with salt, pepper and Scotch bonnet. Refrigerate 24 hours. Just before frying, mix in baking powder. Drop spoonfuls of batter into hot oil; fry until golden. Serve hot with fresh lime wedges.
Chef Nyesha Arrington
Leona | Restaurant
Staple Cuisine: Progressive California cuisine
Proudest Achievement: Cooking at the James Beard House for the Iconoclast Dinner Experience
Signature Recipe: Adult Frosted Flakes
Miss Ollie’s | Restaurant
Staple Cuisine: Anything in the African diaspora
Hardest part about running a restaurant: “Cliché as it may sound, but it’s not having enough hours in the day.”
Signature Recipe: Bajan Fish Cakes
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Senior Producer, EBONY.com