Black women have been killing it in the kitchen since the beginning of time. Despite this fact, Black people — specifically Black women — have been underrepresented in the culinary industry for decades. Although the number of Black chefs is increasing, there’s still plenty of progress to be made in giving us the recognition that we deserve. And with the new generation of Black foodies across the country looking to feed their culinary palates, there are several who are giving the people what they need — in the best way possible.
From seasoned chefs to rising stars, here are seven women who are dominating the food scene, who need to be on your radar.
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With clients such as Leslie Jones, the teams at Roc Nation, Adidas, the US Open and “The Daily Show” to name a few, Chef Sam began her career with the launch of her catering company, Savor by Sam in 2011, pivoting from her medical career track in Cancer Research to follow her true passion. Since launch, she’s made a name for herself among many respected talents within the domestic and international food scenes. Known for infusing her Island roots and years of experience studying with some of the greatest chefs in New York, Chef Sam not only creates worldly cuisines but memorable dining experiences. A 2016 LinkedIn #ChaseGreat campaign star; New York City Wine and Food Festival featured chef; Chef Sam currently serves as Chef de Cuisine at Henry at Life Hotel, where she continues to use her influence and passion for bringing people together through food exploration. You can follow her deliciously, amazing career and journey on social, @savorbysam.
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Chaya I. Fletcher, is a chef, entrepreneur and educator for Oklahoma City Public Schools. A lifelong resident of NE OKC, Chaya is passionate about creating culinary experiences, while honoring the rich African American history of Oklahoma City, as the former owner of Urban Roots. Chaya worked intentionally to curate a space where food and art intersected because of her commitment of providing high quality dining options in NE OKC and providing opportunities to local artists of color. Having grown up in this part of the community, Chaya serves as an advocate for women of color through the Board of Directors of OKC Artists for Justice and works to raise awareness on other issues surrounding education and community revitalization in marginalized communities. As a chef Chaya has had the opportunity to work with the Oklahoma City’s most renowned Chef Kurt Fleisfresser and also Celebrity Chefs Rachel Ray, Dean Fearing and Rick Bayless. As a Culinary Arts instructor and Co-Director of the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Star Spencer High School, Chaya is currently working on a partnership with the USDA to develop OKCPS first Farm to Table Agriculture/Culinary Program. Chaya also serves as President of the local chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., and is a member of ACTE, and Women in Business International.
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After working in private industry for over 6 years, Chef Tirzah realized that "If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life"- Thus beginning her transition into becoming a chef and the birth of Tirzah Catering LLC. Chef Tirzah started her career by creating a simple blog which soon grew into catering requests for wedding receptions, baby showers, and upscale adult birthday celebrations. Through the powers of social media, Chef Tirzah was able to market her business effectively by expressing her passion for healthy, organic and GMO free cuisine. Along with being a full time private chef, Chef Tirzah also prepares healthy meals for individuals on the go. Additionally, she teaches cooking classes called "Cooking with Tirzah" at the beautiful Soul Food Farm in Vacaville, CA where she is focusing on conscious eating, raw foods, and meatless options.
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Chef Avanelle has been working for Hyatt Regency Trinidad from 2013. Her experience is extensive as she received her degree from Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality Institute and went on to Johnson and Wales University Baking and Pastry Arts for further education. She worked at the Hilton in Trinidad as a Pastry Supervisor from 2005-2009, then at the Crews Inn Yachting Centre as the Executive Pastry Chef from 2009-2013. During this time, she was also a part of the Trinidad Hotels Restaurant and Tourism Association in the National Culinary Team as its Pastry Chef from 2008-2010. She has won many awards such as the Pastry Chef Competition Bronze award during the CHTA’s “Taste of the Caribbean” Culinary Competition in 2009 (photo attached above). She also won 2nd place in the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality Institute Iron Chef competition in 2003.
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Chef Jennifer Hill Booker delights in her many roles as reality TV personality, cookbook author, culinary educator, and business owner. She is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Paris, a Georgia Grown Executive Chef, the Culinary Explorer for the Georgia Department of Tourism, Founder of Southern Divas of the New South Dinner Series and a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Booker has worked with such celebrity chefs and restaurateurs as Marvin Woods, (Chef Woods was the first Chef tapped by First Lady Michelle Obama to start the Let's Move! Campaign), Jeff Henderson, Tyler Florence, Tiffany Derry, Giadia Laurentis, Patrick Neely, Chef Joe Randall and Mario Batali; and was featured a few years ago on the TODAY Show winning the Super Bowl culinary cook-off for the Atlanta Falcons, beating out the chef for the New England Patriots, and has her most recent cookbook, Dinner Deja Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow, also now available at Pelican Publishing and Amazon.com. In addition, she had her debut on Food Network as a finalist on Cutthroat Kitchen in 2015.
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Chef Petrina was born and raised in Jamaica until her family migrated to the US. That early rearing as a child where she could go outside and pick a fruit from a tree left a lasting impression on how she looked at food. She spent 8 years in the Air Force; through her travels she discovered her passion for cooking. She gained an understanding of how important food is and how it connects us all despite of our different languages and cultures. During her time at Le Cordon Bleu she gained the skills necessary to match her passion and a deeper understanding of gastronomy. Chef Petrina has been making waves in the Vegas food scene for the last 5 years, working at restaurants such as Andiron and Americana. Chef Petrina, seeing the need for vegan fine dining food in Vegas, created Gaiya’s Harvest. A pop-up dinner and small events catering concept that also offers cooking lessons. Gaiya’s Harvest specializes in creating unique experiences by reimagining what vegan food can be.
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“Airis the Chef” started out in college as a Marketing major at Southern University and A&M College with the intentions of graduating and becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, after cooking her very first meal on two hot plates in her college dorm room (smothered pork chops and green beans with potatoes) and having friends rave over it, Airis’ plans changed. After receiving a B.S. in Marketing, Airis relocated to New York City from New Orleans, LA, and enrolled in the culinary program at the Art Institute of NYC. In the past 14 years, Airis has worked in many genres of the food industry for greats like Danny Meyer (Shake Shack), Gordon Ramsay (Gordon Ramsay at the London, NYC), Sue Torres ( Suenos) and Whole Foods Market, to name a few. Currently, Airis works/plays as a caterer, private chef, consultant, avid world traveler and food blogger. Airis brings all the flavors that she experiences from around the world, mixed with skills and technique and most of all love for food and people to all of her clients.
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