According to Heritage Radio Network, there’s perhaps no greater expert on the food and foodways of the African Diaspora than Doctor Jessica B. Harris. She is the author of twelve critically acclaimed cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora including Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking, Sky Juice and Flying Fish Traditional Caribbean Cooking, The Welcome Table: African American Heritage Cooking, The Africa Cookook: Tastes of a Continent, Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim. Harris also conceptualized and organized The Black Family Reunion Cook Book.Her most recent book, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, was the International Association for Culinary Professionals 2012 prize winner for culinary history.
In her more than three decades as a journalist, Dr. Harris has written book reviews, theater reviews, travel, feature, and beauty articles too numerous to note. She has lectured on African-American food and culture at numerous institutions throughout the United States and Abroad and has written extensively about the culture of Africa in the Americas, particularly the foodways. In the most recent edition of the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, author John Mariani cites Harris as the ranking expert on African American Foodways in the country. An award winning journalist, Harris has also written in numerous national and international publications ranging from Essence to German Vogue. She’s a contributing editor at Saveur and drinks columnist and contributing editor at Martha’s Vineyard magazine. In 2012, she began a monthly radio show on Heritage Radio Network, My Welcome Table, that focuses on Food. Travel, Music, and Memoir.
Dr. Harris has been honored with many awards including a lifetime achievement award from the Southern Foodways Alliance (of which she is a founding member) and the Lafcadio Hearn award as a Louisiana culinary icon from The John Folse Culinary Academy at Louisiana’s Nicholls State University. In 2010, she was inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in the United States.
Dr. Harris holds degrees from Bryn Mawr College, Queens College, New York, The Université de Nancy, France, and New York University. Dr. Harris was the inaugural scholar in residence in the Ray Charles Chair in African-American Material Culture at Dillard University in New Orleans where she established an Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures. Dr. Harris has been a professor of English at Queens College/C.U.N.Y. for more than four decades. She is also a regular presenter at the annual Literary Festival in Oxford, England, a Patron of Oxford Gastronomica at Oxford/Brookes University in Oxford, England, and a consultant to the Lowcountry Rice Culture Project in South Carolina. She is currently at work developing a center for connecting culinary cultures in New Orleans.
In 2012, Dr. Harris was asked by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to conceptualize and curate the cafeteria of the new museum which is being built on the Mall in Washington DC that is scheduled to open in 2015 and is a member of the Kitchen Cabinet at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The Heritage Radio Network sums her up saying, “Doctor Jessica B. Harris damn near knows it all when it comes to African and Caribbean cuisines and culinary history. She’s a living legend”. Harris lives in New York, New Orleans and Martha’s Vineyard.