When I started this project in 2008 I was in the midst of a kind of career crisis and needed to find an anchor that would remind me why i do this work and to help fortify the rough patch I was navigating. The goal originally was pretty simple. I had written this very small manifesto that I put out to some folks about what I was feeling as a chef and how I thought we could begin a dialog. It was basically a degrees of separation sort of thing where i sent it to the 20 or so brown food folks i knew and from there it started to snowball, got passed around, and is now a network of over 1600 chefs, writers, wine makers, historians, and all manner of derivative food folk of color.
What I learned very early on was that this work had to be more than my personal catharsis. The more people who read the manifesto the more I saw that we all seem to need a cultural anchor in this work. I realized that this history demanded that the voice of our collective culinary legacy be the central focus of this work and that if this simple truth, that our foodways are important and that they are central to the work we do, be the filter through which all work flows, that I'd be on the right path.
I'm so proud of what I started and I wanted to share the original manifesto to be sure that the simple germ or inspiration for this work is never forgotten as this project grows.
Has it ever occurred to you that there really isn’t a soulful or substantive analysis of black people in the culinary world? While I am the first to be proud of our inclusion in this field as a given, and of the fact that race has little to do with our ability as black people to bring culinary fire wherever and however we like, it occurs to me that it’s dangerous not to look back and pay homage to the fact that that hasn’t always been the case.
I feel a sense of responsibility as black culinary professional, being blessed with the ability to freely and profitably lay down my mark on this industry to, in some way, put something meaningful back out into the culinary universe for my little sisters and brothers to be inspired by. My idea is pretty simple. We all have verbal family history which has been passed down though great meals and stories from parents and grandparents. I’m sure you’ve felt as starved for pockets of inspiration as I have so you’ve looked to whatever information you could find on chefs like Leah Chase or Jefferson Evans and the books you could ferret out by visionaries like Edna Lewis, but what I’m talking about is a reference point for all these things in a clear and concise format; as a staring point for our predecessors.
What I want is to know about your backgrounds, culinary point of view, and where you draw inspiration from. I want to be voracious about researching our culinary history and sharing my findings with you all. I want to meet and network, and fellowship with all y brothers and sisters in food and I want to be the muse moment for the generation of black chefs coming behind me. I want this project to be a multilayer confection of all these things and i know that to achieve any of this that the staring point is you. I hope I'm on the right track and that I'm not alone in this vision. I hope you'll share information with me and keep current with the information I put out because again this project is for all of us!!!