My husband and I both like to cook and we have an extensive cookbook collection. We often buy cookbooks when we travel to remember the places we visited through the food we ate. And we love cookbooks that have stories. In December we saw an interview with Marcus Samuelsson, chef and owner of the famed Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. He was talking about his new cookbook, The Rise. It is an amazing book highlighting the wonderful Black chefs in our country, including our own local Eduardo Jordan owner of Salare, Junebaby, and Lucinda Grains, all very close to our home. We so enjoy these places, and we’ve done lots of take out from Junebaby during the pandemic.
I bought The Rise for Larry for Christmas. Samuelsson includes with each recipe a story of the chef. Each recipe’s heading is “In Honor of (or sometimes in Memory of)” a chef’s name. It makes us feel honored to read these stories and to make this amazing food. We’ve done some cooking from it and really love it. (The cooking part has had its ups and downs!)
This book was just being completed when the pandemic hit. Marcus Samuelsson let José Andrés’ amazing World Central Kitchen team transform Red Rooster into a community kitchen to feed hundreds of people a day. You can learn more about World Central Kitchen here: www.wck.org The story of these last few months infuses the stories of these Black chefs so that we can all enter more deeply into the experience of this time.
Samuelsson writes this at the end of his note at the beginning of the volume:
“The Rise was created to highlight the incredible talent and journey of Black chefs, culinarians, and writers at work today; and to show how the stories we tell can help make a more equitable, just industry. I hope this work, and this moment, leads us to raising up Black winemakers, authors, and farmers. I hope it leads to us supporting the next generation of Black chefs and hospitality workers who will change our industry forever. And I hope that this movement becomes a part of a permanent and much broader social change.
So much beauty and achievement has come has come out of tough times throughout history, and it is inspiring to see communities across the globe coming together to care for one another. We also know that the road “back” from the current crisis will be harder for Black people because of the systemic challenges that disproportionately affect Black restaurateurs and creators of all kinds. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to help bring more equity to this industry. …
We are the Black Food Community: Black chefs, Black servers, Black bartenders, Black food writers, Black culinary historians, Black recipe developers. Our food stems from challenged communities and challenged times. It comprises enslavement, poverty, war, yet our food has soul, and has inspired and fed many. We will rise, we will shine, we are survivors.
Black Food Matters.”
(Marcus Samuelsson, The Rise, Voracious/Little Brown and Company, 2020, p. xv)