- “It’s moving in a great direction, But nothing changes overnight.”
This is major news and we are so excited for Chef Williams, Marc Brooks and the Virtue team. Last year, the southern soul focused restaurant opened in Hyde Park in the old A-10 location. It opened to much acclaim and the food and vibe there is truly delicious! Now, Virtue’s Chef Erick Williams was recognized by The New York Times as one of 16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America.
“I don’t know that I decided that restaurants were the path, but the path became clear to me. I find the height of my purpose working with my hands, collaborating with farmers, serving my community. That farmer that needs you to buy his bell peppers is the same as the homeless guy on the street asking for money. Everybody’s just trying to get their needs met.”
As organizations like The James Beard Foundation does more in terms of gender and racial diversity, where Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Ga and Kwame Onwuachi, 29, chef and owner of Kith and Kin in Washington were awarded Best Chef: Southeast and Rising Star Chef of the Year respectively, at this year’s gala, its necessary to start not only having conversation about the diversity challenges but also spotlight those paving way for the next gen and making it happen. Its no secret that there’s a dearth of diversity in the food-culinary world especially at the top, heck we wrote about it and Black Food and Beverage was founded on the premise to spotlight those creators of colors. In this feature in The New York Times’ Race/Related series, “16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America” from across the country who are innovative and powerful, are profiled. These leaders have finally crushed the notion that the food they cook must be rooted in the American South.
From the NY Times:
The spotlight, many say, is long overdue. Black cooks have historically seen their foods and techniques co-opted, getting little credit for their influence on America’s culinary traditions. “There have always been black hands in American food,” said Jerome Grant, the chef at Sweet Home Café in the National Museum of African American History and Culture….Before last year, black chefs had gone 17 years without winning in any of the best chef or outstanding restaurant categories of the James Beard awards — the Oscars of the restaurant industry. But over the past two years, six black chefs have won in those categories.
Last year, just over 17 percent of chefs and head cooks were black, about five percentage points higher than their representation in the entire work force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of black-owned eating and drinking establishments increased by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to an analysis of census data by the National Restaurant Association.
The key to maintaining the current momentum, the chefs say, is working to address lingering barriers and stereotypes. Restaurant investors and the food media remain largely white, and those two sectors have significant influence over the fate of chefs and restaurants.
You can read the rest of the article featuring the other 15 chefs here. Kudos to The New York Times for this and we hope this will keep the momentum going in the conversation of race equality and those chefs in Chicago that ought to be working at a higher level in restaurant across the city get their due time.
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pronounced: Boh-la-jee, like the Bellagio but w/o the O. SLC Founder and Editor, loves to write about topics at the intersection of career and lifestyle for today's young professional and future leaders.