11 Incredible African American Chefs Making History

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In the realm of culinary arts, black chefs have played a pivotal role in shaping the vibrant and diverse American food scene. Their innovative approaches, remarkable skills, and unyielding passion have garnered widespread recognition and acclaim.

This article delves into the lives and accomplishments of 11 incredible African American chefs making history. 

1. Nyesha Arrington

Born 18 October 1981, Nyesha Arrington is an accomplished African American chef who has made significant contributions to the culinary world. Born and raised in Southern California, Arrington developed a passion for cooking at a young age. Her culinary journey began when she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where she honed her skills.

Arrington’s career soared when she appeared on Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 9, where she showcased her culinary prowess and garnered widespread recognition. Since then, she has made numerous television appearances, including on shows like “Knife Fight” and “Chef Hunter,” further solidifying her reputation as a talented chef.

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2. Mashama Bailey

Mashama Bailey is a highly esteemed African American chef who has made significant contributions to the culinary world. She was born in the Bronx, New York, and grew up deeply appreciating food and cooking. Bailey’s passion for the culinary arts led her to attend the International Culinary Center in New York City.

Bailey gained widespread recognition for her work at The Grey, a restaurant located in Savannah, Georgia. Alongside her business partner, John O. Morisano transformed a former Greyhound bus station into a celebrated dining destination. 

3. Timon Balloo

Timon Balloo is an acclaimed chef known for his innovative approach to global cuisine. Born in Miami, Florida, to Trinidadian and Chinese parents, Balloo’s multicultural background heavily influences his culinary style. Inspired by his family’s diverse culinary traditions, Timon Balloo developed a passion for cooking early on.

Balloo’s career took off when he joined the renowned restaurant Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Miami. As the executive chef, he garnered widespread recognition for inventing small plates that combine flavors worldwide. 

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4. Preston Clark

Chef Preston Clark is the executive chef of Lure Fishbar, an area of Mercer Street hospitality. Clark manages Lure’s three locations, including NYC and Soho. 

The African American chef is popular for his fresh ingredients, beautiful presentation, and bold flavors. Preston Clark obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the renowned Culinary Institute of America in 2002

After this, he embarked on a remarkable journey of honing his skills under the guidance of esteemed culinary luminaries. He was privileged to work alongside a lineup of the country’s finest chefs, including Jean Georges Vongerichten, Charlie Trotter, Marcus Samuelsson, and Michael Lomonaco

5. Kiki Bokungu Louya

11 Incredible African American Chefs Making History
Kiki Bokungu Louya. Image Source: Kikilouya.com

Born in Detroit, Kiki Bokungu Louya is known as a change maker in the United States food industry. She’s a chef, food activist, entrepreneur, storyteller, and community partner, working to create a more equitable and healthier food system for all. Her work has been featured in Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other reputable publications.

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6. Jerome Grant

Jerome Grant, a highly accomplished chef, graduated from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in 2002. He was crucial in opening multiple restaurants from Saint Croix to Washington, D.C.

 In 2008, Grant joined the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Mitsitam Cafe as sous chef, contributing to its 2012 RAMMY award for Best Casual Restaurant. 

At Sweet Home Cafe, he received a James Beard nomination for:

  • Best New Restaurant (2017)
  • Best American Cookbook (2019)
  • Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (2019). 

In 2019, Grant was also recognized as one of the “16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America” by the New York Times.

7. Max Hardy

Max Hardy is among the African American chefs making history. He got his first Culinary experience in Tampa, Florida, as a student in the culinary arts program at Wharton High School. While in school, Max started his cooking enterprise called Chef Max Miami. His enterprise specialized in French, American, Asian, Kosher, and Caribbean cuisine. Within a short period, Chef Max Miami became a huge success. 

Max Hardy’s cooking skills have been viewed nationwide as a competitor on Food Network’s hit shows, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay. He was the recipient of the My Brother’s Keeper Award by President Obama (2016)

8. Makini Howell

Makini Howell is a renowned vegan chef and entrepreneur based in Seattle, Washington. She is known for her innovative plant-based cooking and her commitment to creating delicious vegan dishes. Makini comes from a family with a rich culinary background, and she has carried on that tradition by creating her own unique style of vegan cuisine.

In 2005, Makini founded Plum Bistro, a popular vegan restaurant in Seattle. Plum Bistro quickly gained a loyal following and became known for its upscale and flavorful vegan dishes. The restaurant offers a diverse menu that showcases Makini’s creativity and passion for plant-based cooking. Some of Plum Bistro’s signature dishes include the Mac & Yease, a vegan macaroni and cheese, and the Soulful Bowl, a hearty and satisfying grain bowl.

9. JJ Johnson

JJ Johnson is a talented chef and cookbook author known for his innovative approach to African, Caribbean, and global cuisine. He has gained recognition for his culinary skills, unique flavor combinations, and dedication to showcasing the diverse culinary traditions of the African diaspora.

JJ Johnson was born and raised in New York City and developed a passion for cooking from a young age. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and began his career working in prestigious restaurants such as The Cecil and Minton’s in Harlem. During his time at The Cecil, Johnson started delving into African flavors and exploring the rich culinary heritage of the African diaspora.

10 Edouardo Jordan

Edouardo Jordan is a highly acclaimed chef and restaurateur known for his commitment to celebrating and preserving the culinary traditions of the American South. He has gained recognition for his skillful cooking, attention to detail, and his dedication to highlighting the flavors and stories of African American and Southern cuisines.

The chef was born and raised in Florida and developed a passion for cooking at a young age. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando and worked at prestigious restaurants such as The French Laundry in California and Per Se in New York City. These experiences helped shape his culinary skills and provided a foundation for his future success.

11. Kwame Onwuachi

Kwame Onwuachi is a talented chef, author, and entrepreneur who has significantly impacted the culinary world. He’s famous for his innovative cooking style, entrepreneurial spirit, and candid storytelling about his journey in the food industry.

Kwame Onwuachi was born to Nigerian and African American parents in the Bronx, New York. His passion for cooking was ignited at a young age, inspired by his mother’s Nigerian cooking and his diverse culinary experiences growing up. Onwuachi’s culinary career began in earnest when he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

These 11 incredible African American chefs are making history with their culinary talents, innovation, and dedication to their craft. Their contributions to the culinary world are reshaping perceptions, highlighting the richness of African American cuisine, and inspiring future generations.

People Also Read: Chefs Shaping African Cuisine’s Future

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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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