February is Black History Month, which honors the accomplishments, cultures, contributions, and history that the Black community has made in shaping the United States and Canada. To celebrate Black History Month, we’re highlighting a few renowned Black chefs from the U.S. and Canada who’ve made a powerful impact in the culinary world, as well as featuring a recipe inspired by Zoe Adjonyoh.
Matthew Raiford, who calls himself a “CheFarmer” (chef and farmer), is paving the way for future culinarians by showing the everchanging ways to enjoy authentic Southern food through his organic farming practices and farm-to-fork cooking style. He combines history and family in his culinary creations to honor and celebrate his Gullah Geechee heritage.
Suzanne Barr is paving the way for not only Black chefs but also female chefs. Experiencing a nomadic lifestyle when she grew up, Barr taps into her childhood for inspiration on creating her signature flavorful comfort food. She was profiled in the critically acclaimed film documentary “The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution,” which focuses on how female chefs overcome challenges in the culinary world. A strong activist for food security, mental wellness, marginalized communities, and more, Barr received the 2021 Social Advocate of the Year Award from Restaurants Canada.
Carla Hall, a two-time “Top Chef” finalist, is a driving force in the culinary industry by highlighting the contributions that the Black community has made to the craft. She received an NAACP Image Award nomination for her cookbook “Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration.” She honors her Nashville upbringing, as well as her West African ancestors, by incorporating Southern U.S., African, and Caribbean flair into her recipes made with farm-fresh ingredients.
Adrian Forte was introduced to culinary arts at a young age by his two grandmothers who were chefs in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica. His impressive culinary background includes appearing on “Top Chef Canada” and “Chopped Canada,” as well as working internationally as a chef and culinary consultant for notable restaurants and brands. In his first cookbook, “Yawd,” which was released in 2022, Forte honors and explores the flavors, ingredients, and techniques of Afro-Caribbean cuisine.
Edna Lewis helped shape America’s view of Southern cooking by showing how authentic Southern food is directly tied to the earth, using seasonal, fresh ingredients. She began cooking at Café Nicholson in Manhattan in 1949, which boasted a guest list that included Eleanor Roosevelt, Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote, among other notable figures.
Try out this Ghanaian-style recipe below, inspired by Zoe Adjonyoh.
Jollof Dry Spice Mix
Makes 1 ½ cups
1 ½ tablespoons + ½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ tablespoons + ½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
2 ⅛ teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 ⅛ teaspoons ground coriander seed
2 ⅛ teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 ¾ teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
STEP 1: Combine all ingredients. Place in a sealed container and set aside until needed.
Jollof Grilled Chicken
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Jollof Dry Spice Mix (see recipe above)
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
¼ cup scallions (green onions)
½ cup grape tomatoes
STEP 1: To prepare ingredients: Preheat grill to high. Prepare Jollof Spicy Dry Mix according to recipe. Trim and bias slice (cut diagonally) scallions. Halve grape tomatoes.
STEP 2: Thinly slice chicken breasts into ¼-inch-thick fillets.
STEP 3: In a container, place chicken, jollof spice mix, vegetable oil, salt, and black pepper. Mix well; let marinate for 1 hour.
STEP 4: Grill chicken until proper internal temperature is reached (165°F/74°C).
STEP 5: Place chicken in serving vessel; garnish with scallions and grape tomatoes.