African-American Chefs Hall of Fame leaping from digital to Savannah storefront

The Post and Courier in Charleston has posted an article about the African American Chefs Hall of Fame announcement by Chef Joe Randall.  The full article may be viewed here.   Excerpts from the article by Hanna Raskin is below.  Photography by John Carrington.

By Hanna Raskin – Edna Lewis, widely considered one of the nation’s most important chefs, has been celebrated through dinners, lectures, scholarship funds, radio programs, exhibits and at least one documentary film. In 2014, eight years after Lewis’ death, the U.S. Postal Service put her on a postage stamp.

And yet on a recent episode of “Top Chef Charleston,” when competing chefs learned the day’s challenge entailed honoring Lewis’ legacy, they responded with a mix of blank stares and admissions of ignorance. “I have no clue who Edna Lewis is,” Sheldon Simeon whispered to Emily Hahn, who concurred.

“I was shocked,” says Kevin Mitchell, a Culinary Institute of Charleston chef instructor who’s now enrolled in the University of Mississippi’s Southern Studies graduate program.

Mitchell is willing to excuse the Hawaiian-born Simeon for not being familiar with the mainland’s culinary giants. But he’s troubled by working Southern chefs not bothering to acquaint themselves with their professional forebears, many of whom, like Lewis, were African-American.

“Learn their names,” he tweeted after the show aired, reeling off a list of 26 chefs that started with Lewis and ended with New Orleans’ Stanley Jackson, who ran the kitchen at K-Paul’s. In between came men and women who are frequently cited by food historians and chefs with vast cookbook collections. Yet shout-outs in the ephemeral forms of tribute menus, pop-up parties, symposium discussions and recipe headnotes in glossy magazines apparently aren’t echoing in the restaurant industry.

Now, though, a Savannah-based chef is pursuing a more permanent means of commemoration. Chef Joe Randall earlier this month announced plans to convert his 16-year-old cooking school on Waters Avenue into the African-American Chefs Hall of Fame, which previously existed only on Randall’s website.

“We are committed to documenting the history as best we can to ensure it’s not forgotten,” Randall told 150 guests at his retirement banquet, prepared by nine African-American chefs who count themselves among his mentees……The rest of the article may be viewed here.

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