Tuesday, March 3 we will have the distinctive pleasure of welcoming Chef Joe Randall and six guest chefs plus a guest barkeep for an epic feast to celebrate the legacy of Edna Lewis, one of America’s greatest chefs, and to raise funds for the Edna Lewis Foundation. The Foundation is a fledgling 501(c)(3) organization started in 2013 with the mission “To honor, cultivate, and preserve, the rich African-American culinary history by offering a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and promote a deeper understanding of Southern culinary culture and heritage.” We couldn’t agree with more with that spirit and are donating Big Jones’ space time, and labor for the event so that 100% of your ticket price can go toward forwarding that mission. Event registration is on the foundation’s web site here.
In the interest of advancing the Edna Lewis Foundation’s mission of preserving the richness of African American culinary history, and stated goal of advancing African American talent in the culinary field, six African American chefs and a barkeep will be present to cook for you. If you take a look at the menu, maybe you’ll be left asking yourself the same question I’ve asked myself many times…
A few years ago, I was at a food & wine event in a major Southern city and the hotel had the standard welcome package available with information about area attractions, hotels, and of course, restaurants. On the back page was a photo montage of fifty of the top chefs in town. Three of them were African American, this in a city which is almost one-third African American. It wasn’t the first time I had the thought, but my gut was hit hard by the question, “why is the face of Southern food so white?”
The reality of American culinary history is that Southern cuisine was invented, cultivated, and evolved into one of the world’s great regional cuisines in and by the hands of highly skilled women and men of African descent. Throughout the formative eras of Southern cuisine, whether you were in the White House, or a plantation Big House or city merchant’s home, I can assure you the white folks were not doing the cooking, and the lady of the house wasn’t about to risk a bit of sweat on her brow to even venture into the kitchen. There was some direction from management, but the fields and kitchens were the domain of African Americans. They were the great minds and hands behind the evolution of our beloved Southern cooking, and their voice is needed today more than ever.
As we are now in the midst of African American History Month, I think it’s a great time to contemplate this little-talked about part of American history. As with the genesis of blues music, rock and roll, funk, dance pop, and hip hop and many other parts of American culture that we revere, the creating was done by black folks. Certainly with cooking, it was always a laborer’s role and chefs were rarely famous until the television blast Julia Child across the airwaves in the 1960’s. A generation later, our career is considered a prestigious one and slowly but surely, the face you’re most likely to see at the top of the kitchen hierarchy is is white. Through the work of these chefs presenting dinner and some discussion before and after, we hope to come to a greater understanding of what is happening in the culinary field and how to achieve a balance of opportunity so that everyone has a chance to contribute to the future of cuisine. We are sure to find that the African American voice, when heard, is what American cuisine needs to find its heart and soul.
Tuesday, March 3 2015
Cocktail Reception 6:00 p.m.
Guinea hen in aspic, cornmeal crisps with creamy shad roe dip, savory benne crackers with shrimp paste and pickled fennel
Beverage Pairings by Kelly Stepto-Royston, Atwood Restaurant, TBA
Dinner 7:00 p.m.
Chef Jennifer Hill Booker, Your Resident Gourmet, Atlanta, Author, Field Peas to Foie Gras
Deep-fried Mississippi catfish with Southern-style hoecakes, pickled onions, and red hot pepper relish
Chef Timothy Dean, Timothy Dean Burger Bar, Washington, DC
Rosemary roasted chicken leg stuffed with collard greens, mirepoix of country ham and sweetbreads, with essence of jalapeno cheese grits
Chef Kristopher Murray and Washburne Culinary Institute
J.D. pulled pork and crisp pork belly, sweet potato cake with Washburne cha-cha relish
Chef Brian Jupiter, Executive Chef, Corporate Chef, Pioneer Tavern Group
Warm butterbean and crawfish salad, watercress, wild boar bacon vinaigrette
Chef Dwight Evans, Executive Chef, Covenant Village
Compressed grassfed oxtail, morel demi, celeriac puree, roasted pomme de terre
Chef Cliff Rome, Chef/Owner, Rome’s Joy Catering
Uncle Billy’s bourbon peach cobber: Cinnamon & bourbon glazed peaches with hand-rolled butter crust and vanilla bean gelato
$125 per person