We are pleased to announce one of the coolest events we’ve been able to help organize and participate in – a culinary showcase of Chicago’s Black food culture and benefit for the Edna Lewis Foundation. The South Side Chefs Revival and Homecoming is a gathering of Chicago’s top Black chefs at the Parkway Ballroom in historic Bronzeville. The second Sunday of August was the annual revival of Edna Lewis’ Virginia church, and the date coincides with the Chicago Food Bowl, hosted by the Chicago Tribune.
This is the second year of the Chicago Tribune food bowl, and as part of my work with the Edna Lewis Foundation, I conceived of an event to celebrate Black chefs in Chicago, and also to highlight the food culture of the South and West sides. Bronzeville, especially, has a wonderful food scene and the neighborhood is beautiful and gracious. It’s a chance to get you out to the South Side for the party of the summer, eat some good food by Chicago’s top Black chefs, hear some tunes spun by the inimitable Ayana Contreras, meet Miss Ruth Lewis Smith, Edna Lewis’ sister, whose memories and recollections of their time growing up on the farm in Freetown are significant and mesmerizing. Soul Food Scholar, Adrian Miller, will emcee the event. Long time followers of Big Jones will remember the inaugural Soul Food Family Supper featuring his book Soul Food, the Surprising Story of an American Cuisine. Miller’s knowledge of Chicago’s Black food culture is vast, as part of his research for that book and also an upcoming one on Black barbecue culture. Come here him talk up Chicago style barbecue! Especially if you didn’t know that’s a thing!
Argus Brewery has generously donated beer, Terraneo Merchants has donated wine, and Uncle Nearest is bringing the finest Tennessee whiskey we have ever tasted. And look at this roster of chefs and deejay! Get your tickets now, it will sell out!
ABOUT THE EDNA LEWIS FOUNDATION
The Edna Lewis Foundation was created In January of 2012 by Chef Joe Randall to revive, preserve and celebrate the rich history of AfricanAmerican cookery by cultivating a deeper understanding of Southern food and culture in America.
The guiding spirit of The Foundation is its namesake, Chef Edna Lewis, an early champion of Southern cookery who helped educate and mentor generations of chefs and food enthusiasts, while celebrating the African American culinary community and culture. Today an expanded Board of Trustees, led by Chairperson, Mashama Bailey continues this legacy, while providing new culinary programming, scholarships and training to serve an expanded Mission to provide access to opportunities for women and people of color within American food and foodways.
The Foundation advocates for the Southern tradition of the original farm-to-table lifestyle, eating with the seasons, a the sense of community, and the satisfactory feeling that hard work is always rewarded by good food.
Edna Lewis (April 13, 1916 – February 13, 2006) has inspired generations of chefs as the seminal African-American influence on authentic Southern cookery.
ABOUT EDNA LEWIS
Ms. Lewis was born in 1916 in Freetown, Orange County, Virginia, one of eight children. Her grandfather, an emancipated slave, helped found the community, raised his family, and lived on a farm that had been granted to him. Central to the family’s life was food in all its phases: growing, foraging, harvesting and cooking. Without any modern cooking conveniences – everything was cooked over wood and food preparation called on creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity.
At the age of 16, after her father died, she left Freetown for Washington, D.C., and then found herself in New York City, where she quickly found work as a seamstress, copied Christian Dior dresses for Dorcas Avedon (the wife of photographer Richard Avedon), and became well known for her own designs of African-inspired dresses.
In the 1940s through the late 1950’s, Ms. Lewis’ culinary legacy began with the opening of Café Nicholson, on Manhattan’s East Side. At the time, female chefs were few and far between and black female chefs even more a rarity. In late 1972, Knopf Publishing turned Edna’s handwritten pages of recipes and stories into The Edna Lewis Cookbook and the The Taste of Country Cooking in 1976, which today is still considered a classic study of Southern cooking.
After The Taste of Country Cooking was published, Lewis returned to restaurants, most notably to Gage and Tollner in Brooklyn. She worked there for five years before retiring in the mid-1990s and co-founded the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food, a precursor to the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA).
Edna Lewis died in 2006 at the age of 89.
Edna Lewis Foundation Board of Trustees