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Top 6 Black Food Inventors Who Changed Culinary History


Blacks have contributed immensely to the food industry. Without them, we wouldn’t have ice cream, french fries, macaroni and cheese, or even frozen foods. Here we’ll explore the top seven black food inventors who changed culinary history. 

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1. George Washington Carver – Agriculture

George Washington Carver (c. 1864 – January 5, 1943) was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. He’s best known for his significant contributions to agricultural science, particularly his work with peanuts and sweet potatoes. 

Carver’s work focused on promoting sustainable farming practices and developing alternative crops to reduce the South’s dependence on cotton, which had depleted the soil. 

One of his primary objectives was to educate farmers about the importance of crop rotation. He advocated for alternating crops such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans with cotton, as these legumes helped fix nitrogen in the soil. This innovative agricultural practice significantly improved soil fertility, leading to higher crop yields.

George Washington Carver’s extensive research on peanuts revolutionized their cultivation and utilization. He developed more than 300 products from peanuts, including food items like peanut butter, peanut oil, and peanut milk. 

He also worked with sweet potatoes. Carver developed multiple uses for sweet potatoes beyond their traditional consumption. He created sweet potato flour, starch, and even sweet potato-based ink. You can buy a book about George Washington Carver on Amazon to learn more about his amazing investments. 

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2. Joseph Lee – Bread kneading machine

Born in 1849, Joseph Lee was a black inventor, chef, and restaurateur known for his innovative contributions to the culinary world, particularly in the field of bread-making. Joseph Lee’s most significant invention was the “Lee’s Bakery Machinery,” which he patented in 1895. 

This invention changed the process of bread-making and provided a more efficient and hygienic way to prepare and handle dough. The machine mechanized the process of mixing and kneading dough, reducing the physical labor required and producing consistent results.

It also included a mechanism for cutting dough into uniform portions, ensuring consistent loaf sizes and reducing waste. With the machine, bread crumbs, which reduced waste and provided an additional product that was sold or used in other recipes.

Joseph Lee’s invention was a significant milestone in the industrialization of the baking industry. His bakery machinery laid the groundwork for the modern bread-making process. 

3. Alexander P Ashbourne – Biscuit cutter

 Born in 1861 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Alexander P. Ashbourne was a black food inventor known for his biscuit cutter inventionIn the late 1800s, Ashbourne noticed that the process of cutting dough for biscuits and cookies was time-consuming and labor-intensive. 

Chefs and bakers had to use knives or other tools to manually cut individual pieces of dough, which was not only inefficient but also led to unevenly shaped biscuits. To solve this problem, Ashbourne designed and patented his biscuit cutter in 1875.

The biscuit cutter consisted of a metal or wooden frame with a series of sharp-edged circular blades attached to the bottom. Chefs and bakers could place the cutter over a sheet of dough and press down. 

This allowed them to easily cut multiple pieces of dough into uniform shapes and sizes.With the aid of the machine, bakers could produce large quantities of biscuits or cookies more quickly.

4. Alfred Cralle – Ice Cream Scoop

Born on September 4, 1866, in Kenbridge, Virginia, Alfred L. Cralle was a black inventor known for his invention of the ice cream scoop. Alfred L. Cralle patented the ice cream scoop on February 2, 1897. 

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His invention addressed a common problem in the ice cream industry at the time – the difficulty of serving ice cream efficiently. Before the invention of the ice cream scoop, serving ice cream was often a messy and time-consuming process.

Cralle’s ice cream scoop had a unique design that featured a semi-cylindrical shape with a scraper mechanism. The scraper allowed the ice cream to be easily released from the scoop, making it less likely to stick.

With the scraper mechanism, less ice cream was left behind in the scoop, resulting in less waste and maximizing the amount of ice cream served. The ice cream scoop’s ergonomic design also made it comfortable and easy to use for both professional servers and home users.

5. Frederick McKinley Jones – Refrigeration

McKinley was an inventor and entrepreneur.  He’s best known for his invention of the portable refrigeration unit for trucks, which greatly advanced the refrigerated transport industry.

 Frederick Jones was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up facing poverty and racial discrimination. He had little formal education but showed a natural talent for mechanics and electronics.

Jones worked as a mechanic and developed expertise in engines and electronics. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I, where he gained further technical knowledge.

In the 1930s, Jones was approached by a food preservation company, which needed a solution to transport perishable goods over long distances without spoilage. Drawing from his technical skills and experience, Jones invented a portable air-cooling unit in 1940.

6. Wallace “Wally” Amos – Founder of Famous Amos Cookies

Born on July 1, 1936, in Tallahassee, Florida, Amos is a well-known figure in the food industry, particularly for his contributions to the cookie business. Wally Amos founded the Famous Amos cookie brand in 1975. 

His love for baking and his desire to share his delicious chocolate chip cookies with the world inspired him to start his own business. Famous Amos cookies quickly gained popularity due to their distinct taste and high-quality ingredients.

Amos’ signature cookie was the classic chocolate chip cookie, which featured a perfect balance of buttery richness, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a satisfying crunch. As the brand’s popularity grew, Amos expanded the business and opened more cookie stores across the United States.

These six Black food inventors have left an indelible mark on culinary history, transforming the way we prepare, preserve, and savor food. Their ingenuity and contributions have not only enriched our dining experiences but have also paved the way for diversity and innovation in the culinary world.

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Uchenna Agwu
Uchenna Agwu
Hi there! I’m Uchenna Agwu, and I love to write. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me reading books or watching documentaries (I’m a bit of a nerd). But I also like to get out and explore – whether that means going on hikes or checking out new restaurants.


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