From From the Bay Area to Brunswick: Understanding Black Food Influences Across the US

The African Diaspora has greatly impacted American cuisine and culture. Since 1619, resilience and innovation allowed rich cultural practices to be preserved even under the most brutal conditions. In honor of Black History Month, we’re spotlighting chefs, entrepreneurs, and food writers who are celebrating African and African American traditions, ingredients, and dishes today and introducing them to a broader audience across the United States. We’re also featuring historians helping to discover and share the longstanding impact and contributions of Black people on American foodways. This playlist travels to regions across the US – from Queens to New Orleans, from the Bay Area to Brunswick – to understand Black food history and contemporary influences.

Afro-Caribbean Culture in Miami 

Soul by Chef Todd Richards Episode 21: Chef Stephan Durand: Chef Stephan Durand has known food was his calling since high school, and has had passion for Haitian food, along with other Caribbean and Latin flavors, since even before then. He is the president and founder of Miami’s Haitian Cultural Alliance and the Executive Chef of Creole Garden in the city. He’s also co-captain of Haiti’s National Culinary Team. He also has owned and operated his own food service, personal chef, and instructional business, Culinary by Design, since 2007. Recently, he has helped to produce Haiti’s Food & Spirits Festival: Gout et Saveurs Lakay.

Bress ‘n’ Nyam in Brunswick 

Inside Julia’s Kitchen Episode 127: Meet Matthew Raiford: Matthew Raiford is the “CheFarmer” based on Gilliard Farms in Brunswick, Georgia. He shares his decision to return to his roots on his family farm and his Gullah Geechee cookbook, Bress ‘n’ Nyam

Taking West African Food Fast Casual in Philly

Item 13 Episode 53: Taking West African Food Fast Casual with Ruth Nakaar: Ruth Nakaar is the founder and owner of Fudena, a food concept currently based in Philadelphia that aims to be America’s first West African fast-casual restaurant chain. Think Chipotle but with the bold flavors of West Africa. Initially an idea she started working on while pursuing her MBA at Wharton, Ruth went from hosting recipe tastings for friends and classmates in her tiny studio apartment to cooking out of a commercial kitchen and serving all of Philadelphia. The love for the food she grew up with as a first-generation Ghanaian American drives Ruth’s passion to push West African cuisine into the U.S. culinary mainstream.

Somali Food in Seattle

Food Without Borders Episode 22: Hawa Hassan: Born in Somalia, Hawa Hassan’s family fled to a refugee camp in Kenya to escape the civil war. When she was only seven years old, Hawa was sent to Seattle to live with a family friend and start a new life in America. Hawa speaks about her upbringing as a refugee in the US and how her love of food and search for authentic Somali ingredients inspired her to become the founder and CEO of BasBaas, an authentic line of Somali hot sauces and chutneys made in New York. She later went on to write the James Beard Award-Winning cookbook: In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean.

Unearthing New York’s Milling History

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 544: Unearthing New York’s Long History of Milling: Host Jimmy Carbone revisits the question of ‘what came first beer or bread?’ and dives deep into the history of milling. Joining him are guests Lavada Nahon, a culinary historian and interpreter for African American history for NYS Department of Parks; Amy Halloran, flour ambassador and the author of The New Bread Basket; and Bryan Ford, of Artisan Bryan and the author of New World Sourdough. Starting with when settlers brought wheat, barley, and rye from Europe and turned New York into a bread basket, Lavada helps paint a picture of early New Amsterdam and unearth a whitewashed history that has left out the critical role enslaved people played in the grain economy. Amy and Lavada talk about the types of bread recipes that were common at the time, while Bryan shares how he is learning to break the mold we have surrounding bread today, which still uses a European standard.

Atlanta’s Modern Global Soul Food 

Soul by Chef Todd Richards Episode 18: Chef Deborah VanTrece: Chef Deborah VanTrece is known for her elevated Soul Food as an owner of Atlanta’s Twisted Soul. Chef VanTrece’s cookbook, The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavors, has garnished many awards and serves as an inspiration to novice cooks as well as chefs from all backgrounds. In this episode, she talks about her history in food, her cookbook, as well as pathways for minorities into the food business.

Black History in NOLA

My Welcome Table by Jessica B. Harris Episode 35: New Orleans: Marigny/Bywater: Travel to the Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods in New Orleans for a history lesson with the one and only Dr. Jessica B. Harris.

Bringing Senegalese Ingredients to the Bay Area and Beyond

Item 13 Episode 77: Chef Pierre Thiam: Pierre (who was born and raised in Senegal and now lives in the Bay Area) has dedicated his career to making West African cuisine and ingredients accessible to new audiences in the US and beyond. He’s the executive chef and co-founder of Teranga, his acclaimed fast-casual group of restaurants in New York City, where he sources food directly from African farmers, and is the co-founder of Yolélé, a purpose-driven food business that makes African ingredients available to U.S. home cooks and restaurants, while connecting smallholder farms in West Africa with the global food economy. Pierre is also the author of three cookbooks, including his most recent, The Fonio Cookbook: An Ancient Grain Rediscovered, which highlights simple African-inspired recipes for the home cook.

The Roots of Rice in the South

Heritage Radio Network on Tour Episode 390: The Roots of Rice with Dominick Lee, Kevin Mitchell, and Matthew Raiford at Charleston Wine + Food 2022: The most significant crop in the world, rice is a staple in the diets of more than half of the Earth’s people. Chinese lore claimed it was a gift from the animals after a flood; eons ago, the Japanese paid their taxes with rice; in the American South, rice became the cash crop for plantation owners at the expense of the enslavement of thousands of Africans. At a family-style dinner during the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, chefs came together to create a meal that pays homage to each of their stories and explores how food, specifically rice, can bridge the gap between cultures. Dominick Lee, Kevin Mitchell, and Matthew Raiford discuss the history of Carolina gold, talk about regional dishes, and share family stories. 

African American Influences on the Midwest 

Eat Your Heartland Out Episode 5: African-American & Appalachian Migration Influences: Host Capri Cafaro is joined by Donna Pierce, writer of the syndicated column “Black America Cooks,” and author of a forthcoming book on Freda DeKnight, Ebony Magazine’s first food editor. Cafaro also interviews Bruce Kraig, professor emeritus at Roosevelt University. Kraig speaks about Appalachian migration and its impact on Midwestern food.

Inside a Queens Nigerian Restaurant

Item 13 Episode 49: Introducing West African Cuisine to Astoria with Beatrice Ajaero: Beatrice Ajaero, the third of six siblings, was raised on Roosevelt Island, a sliver in the East River between Manhattan (of which it’s a part) and Queens. Her mother’s family has roots in New Jersey, a neighboring state that, like New York, is home to many Nigerian Americans, and her mother’s memories of “how her aunties cooked” are re-enacted in the family kitchen to this day. “My mom still guides the menu” at Nneji, Beatrice adds. From the age of 12, when she was the youngest student in a cake-decorating class, Beatrice had wanted to be a food entrepreneur. Rather than pursue culinary school, however, she went off to Bard College, about 100 miles up the Hudson River, then to the University of Buffalo School of Law, near the Canadian border, where she lived with her godparents. Her godfather served as a cook in the National Guard for many years, and Beatrice took to heart his work ethic, which tempered culinary talent with diligence. During this time she traveled to Africa, where she had the opportunity to study food traditions firsthand. Notably, in the summer before her third year of law school, Beatrice ran bakeries and restaurants in the Gambia, where she took up the challenge of minimizing imported supplies by sourcing domestically. Eventually, with both a B.A. and J.D. in hand, she returned to Bard for its M.B.A. in Sustainability program. After launching an African Art gallery on Roosevelt Island with her mother, IBARI became annual vendors at the Saturday Farmers Market and in September of 2019, an international fine food and gift shop in Astoria. Last June, Beatrice opened Nneji as a way to share traditional West African dishes complete with grains such as garri (cassava) and fonio (millet).