Welcome To Ode To The Black Chef

Welcome All to “Ode to the Black Chef“, a blog celebrating African American foodways & the chefs that inspired a nation of food and culture that often go unrecognized in the landscape of American cuisine.

America’s foodways are dominated by chefs who specialize in other world cuisines that make up the landscape of the dining experience in the US. However, America’s true national cuisine is that of the enslaved Africans from the south who were responsible for most of the southern food and techniques we love today. Southern Cuisine is the most recognized and beloved of American cuisines, yet its roots are lost and often erased by the many “experts” in the field who are of European descent. While our contributions to the country’s foodways have been dubbed just “Soul Food“. But despite this erasure or distinction of the two being separate from one another, Southern Cuisine is Soul Food and Soul Food is Southern Cuisine.

In today’s culinary industry, a google search of the top southern restaurants & southern specialty chef’s, will lead to a list primarily made up of white men and a few women who most likely learned these foods and techniques from ancestors who once took part in the slave trade of the south. Their ancestors learned the flavor profiles, seasoning spice blends & use of fat & produce from the Enslaved Africans once forced to work the fields and farms of what would become one of the most sought-after cuisines in the country.

Yet none of these chef’s attribute the techniques of southern cuisine to the people who brought with them, the skill that will change the landscape of American cuisine. It is through their knowledge of farming and building flavor with the ingredients of the land that created southern cuisine. It is through their soul that was infused in their food that makes it “SOUL FOOD”. From oxtails to okra, to the use of animal fats to rice, southern cuisine is the love and labor of ENSLAVED AFRICANS forced to lend their knowledge of the land and food to entice the palates of those who forced them into bondage. It is their love and their soul that is felt each time a bowl of collard greens is eaten.

The first true chefs of this country were enslaved African men whose food and recipes are often attributed to the enslavers who kept them as property. Chef Hercules Posey, the enslaved African chef of this nation’s first president, finds his food, recipes, and knowledge being attributed as the contribution of Mrs. George Washington. Chef James Hemings follows the same fate with his food & recipes being the contributions of Thomas Jefferson and his Monticello home.

From cookbooks to innovative quick easy to do meals, like instant rice, pancakes and biscuits, to the knowledge of whole animal cooking; the once enslaved African American people in the southern region, are the cultivators and innovators of the only true cuisine of the United States of America. It is my mission as a chef to celebrate, highlight & educate the lost stories of our culinary ancestors and give them back the cuisine that their hands, sweat & tears built.

ODE TO THE BLACK CHEF celebrates the ingenuity, strength, resilience & hope of the black chefs who came before me. This Blog will honor our past, celebrate our present, and create our future through the landscape of our food.

Our Ancestors, who were once enslaved had no control over their daily lives except when it came to their food. Despite their circumstances, they believed in their hearts and soul that they deserved a good meal & hence SOUL FOOD was born. It was through the food that they created that would keep & instill the traditions of Africa, combined with the flavor of their new surroundings alive for generations of their descendants. It was through food that will allow the descendants of these enslaved to keep their connection to a place that many of us would never know. In their rare off time, they fished, hunted & grew the food that will change the landscape of cooking in this country, from traditional southern to Creole and Cajun. They pride themselves so much on their knowledge of the land and flavor, that they created a cuisine that would not only sustain them but fed their soul so that they could survive the trials & horrors of enslavement. They went on to produce generations of African Americans who would one day come to know SOUL FOOD no matter where in the country they were! Southern, Creole, & Soul Food is our link to our Ancestors and the fortitude they displayed to survive for us to be here today.

We are the descendants of a people who survived the trauma of the middle passage, the devastation of enslavement, through untold strength & determination. Our food tells our story from the shores of West Africa to the Gullah Islands of South Carolina, & the fields of Mississippi. It is TIME WE CONTINUED OUR NARRATIVE through our own hands from our past to our future.

It is my honor to tell the story of our ancestors through this blog and take back our southern roots through the stories of those who came before us. It’s time we put our cuisine, the only true American cuisine, back in the hands of the descendants of the ENSLAVED AFRICANS who cultivated it and our beloved SOUL FOOD.

ODE TO THE BLACK CHEF will tell the long-lost stories of the chefs who came before us through my own culinary interpretation. We will highlight the contributions & recipes of many African American Chefs that go unrecognized, share family recipes & stories in new & innovative ways. We will celebrate our culture’s past and present here on our blog. Most of all we will HONOR OUR ROOTS & OUR ANCESTORS.

So once again, Welcome To “Ode to the Black Chef” a blog celebrating African American Food.

My Culinary love letters to those chefs who made my journey to food possible & to my Ancestors who endured so that I can cook their food today. – Chef Bella Jones

4 thoughts on “Welcome To Ode To The Black Chef

  1. Congratulations! This is the perfect piece to start! This statement “the once enslaved African American people in the southern region, are the cultivators and innovators of the only true cuisine of the United States of America” truly sums our culinary story. Thank you for honoring our Ancestors that history tries to exploit and forget. I’m looking forward to this blog, the lessons and the recipes!

    1. Thank you so much for being the first to leave a comment and for your kind words. This blog is truly a labor of love and I am so excited to continue to share my love with you all. There is so much more to come so I hope that you stay tuned. – Chef Bella J.

  2. This is great, this will give our entire family a insight on why soul food is a traditional way of cooking in our culture that has a history and meaning!

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