Edna Lewis

April 13, 1916 – February 13, 2006

ChefJoerandall.com mourns the passing of a friend and author Chef Edna Lewis.
Statement by Chef Joe Randall owner, Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking School.

Savannah, Ga As the acknowledged foremost authority on Southern cooking, Edna Lewis’ culinary career spanned more than seventy five years. It included experience in both the north and the south’s most popular eateries, the publication of three wonderful cookbooks, and her personal legacy of preserving her culture, flavors and traditions of the South that she grew up in.

Edna’s contributions to the restaurant industry set a positive example for all African American chefs. Her preservation of Southern cuisine provided a culinary foundation that continues to evolve and influence chefs across the nation. The story of Edna Lewis reminds all of us to take what we know best and make it work for us with trust and passion.

Ms. Lewis was recognized by The Taste of Heritage Foundation in 1997 with her induction to the African-American Chefs Hall of Fame Worthy Heir to a Great Tradition of African-American Cookery and A Rich Legacy of Culinary Excellence.

Edna Lewis began her career around the age of 16 as a cook at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC. As early as 1948, Ms. Lewis was a popular chef in New York City, serving up her Southern specialties at Cafe Nicholson for John Nicholson on Manhattan’s East Side, Aschkenasy’s US Steak House, and eventually at Gage & Tollner in Brooklyn. She later taught cooking classes, worked as a caterer and was a visiting consulting restaurant chef at such great places as Fearrington House in Pittsboro, North Carolina and Middletown Place in Charleston, South Carolina.

Cook’s Magazine listed her in their Who’s Who in American Cooking in !986. She appeared as a guest chef at a Robert Mondavi Vineyards Great Chefs of France series and Beringer’s Vineyard honored her as one of 12 in their Great Women Chefs Series. Ms. Lewis was one of the host chefs of James Beard tribute to City Meals on Wheels for many years. Chef Edna made guest appearances in Bloomingdales Great New York Restaurant series and Macy DeGustibus Lecture Series. She was a guest in March 1990 in Philadelphia at the Annual The Book and The Cook Event. Ms. Lewis was also a guest speaker at the Smithsonian Institute in a series on Creativity and American cooking.

Ms. Lewis gained tremendous accolades for her cookbooks on the pleasures of Southern cooking and heritage. Her books were called The Edna Lewis Cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking, and In Pursuit of Flavor. Her passion for fresh ingredients and authentic flavors will live on through the work of generations of African American chefs to come.

Edna Lewis’s mastery in southern cuisine is held in such high esteem that she was honored and featured in the Culture Expressions Gallery of the newly opened Smithsonian Institute of National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., along with chefs Patrick Clark, Leah Chase, Joe Randall and Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved chef.

An Interview with Chef Edna Lewis