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A Little Respect for Black Chefs


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One would also think that if there were African-American chefs ready to step up to "food personality", Oprah would have been the first to pick them for their own show, correct?

Yeah - I'd like to think that's true, but Rachael Ray was already a proven commodity. Oprah didn't get where she is by taking risks on complete unknowns. Even Dr. Phil had a bit of a following before she threw money at that show.

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Read through the previous posts as I was making some lemon buttermilk pudding cake and bottarga and basil tomato sauce for dinner.... so if I missed something, forgive...

(1) when I was in the Twin Cities, I was ***SORELY*** disappointed to find that M Samuelsson had closed Aquavit--did not understand why because MN is swarming with Scandinavians. I must say that while I was in MN--not to knock the state--I ran into more ignorance/stupidity re: ethnic diversity than anywhere else--even Alaska. (I'm Asian American). ANYWAY< so part of me thought, "Hm. Is it because the Twin Cities tastes lean more toward boring Americana (which frankly is true re: Rochester MN), or is it because MS is not white?" I do believe that it may have something more to do with the former than latter----HOWEVER, I want to assert that there is plenty of racism alive and well in the 10,000 lakes state, unfortunately.

(2) Also, Curtis Aikens was a fabulous FoodNetwork host--he's vegetarian, and his was the only veggie show. Always promoted literacy as well. Don't know why they stopped producing his show 'cause i MISS HIM! He is such a cheery TV personality! (curtisaikens.com)

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Read through the previous posts as I was making some lemon buttermilk pudding cake and bottarga and basil tomato sauce for dinner....  so if I missed something, forgive...

(1) when I was in the Twin Cities, I was ***SORELY*** disappointed to find that M Samuelsson had closed Aquavit--did not understand why because MN is swarming with Scandinavians.  I must say that while I was in MN--not to knock the state--I ran into more ignorance/stupidity re: ethnic diversity than anywhere else--even Alaska.  (I'm Asian American).  ANYWAY< so part of me thought, "Hm.  Is it because the Twin Cities tastes lean more toward boring Americana (which frankly is true re: Rochester MN), or is it because MS is not white?"  I do believe that it may have something more to do with the former than latter----HOWEVER, I want to assert that there is plenty of racism alive and well in the 10,000 lakes state, unfortunately.

(2) Also, Curtis Aikens was a fabulous FoodNetwork host--he's vegetarian, and his was the only veggie show.  Always promoted literacy as well.  Don't know why they stopped producing his show 'cause i MISS HIM!  He is such a cheery TV personality! (curtisaikens.com)

I dined at Aquavit in Minneapolis before it closed - and I think the simple fact of the matter is that during the relatively short period of nice weather up there - it simply couldn't compete with nearby places where people could dine outside (we were there in late May - and every place that had a patio was slammed - and every place that didn't was empty). Moreover - the market for higher end dining downtown (where it was located) didn't seem particularly strong during our visit (and another high end restaurant a few blocks away which had been around a lot longer closed shortly after Aquavit). Robyn

P.S. One reason the dining in Rochester is horrible is because of the hideous smoking laws. We ran into one young working person after another - the kind of people who might keep an ethnic/lower end dining scene vibrant - and they said they'd rather stay home - order takeout - and watch football games on TV - and smoke - than pay money to eat out. Minneapolis isn't like Florida (which has similar smoking laws) - where people who want a cigarette can duck outside for a smoke (unless you really want to "suffer for your art" - cripes is it cold there a lot of the time). FWIW - if you go to bars in Rochester (we went to a couple there) - or Florida - where - basically - you can drink and smoke - but no food is served - most that I've seen are doing a pretty good business. In fact - we have something new here in Florida - bars where you can BYOF (bring your own food). Kind of turns the old convention on its head.

Anyway I think this has nothing to do with race - religion - sex - or anything similar. It has everything to do with how people care to spend their leisure dollars when they don't have a lot of them. Robyn

Edited by robyn (log)
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our fellow gulleteer michael ruhlman recently did a very nice story on the topic in the "other" times. the problem is: after samuelson, who? for whatever reason, there don't seem to be many black chefs cooking these days. (though as for the food network, cooking ability obviously wouldn't count for much.)

Come by to the school I teach at and you'll meet quite a few future chefs of African-American descent, from the continent and the diaspora. They come from all walks of life. There are instructors from the same backgrounds as well.

I started a thread here about African and African-American chefs a while back. I haven't had time to follow up with the leads I got. I think I will send chef Samuelsson an email about my experience with this and the Africans (all the diversity of people from this continent) that I know in the food industry. I suspect the scene will be very different in 5 years, in 10 years, in 15 years, etc...

ETA: same thing with Hispanics, Asians, women, etc...

Chef Zadi, a few more names of African American executive chefs currently working in NYC, for you:

Cheryl Smith

Herb Wilson

Keith Williams

Thank you for that azlee.

I have a good base of African contacts right now, still looking to expand. So far our network includes so many from different parts of the continent and in the diaspora; scientists, writers, artists, educators, chefs, and so on. Always great to be in touch with more.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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This is an issue that needs to be examined more thoroughly, and I applaud Mr. Sauelsson and Mr. Woods for bringing it to the fore. Racism exists everywhere in our society, and to deny that it exists in kitchens is to pretend that resaturants are somehow immune to society's ills. I have eaten at M Woods, and it is excellent, he is very personable, but I agree with him, that, sadly, his is a lone voice in the wilderness.

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Let's not forget New Orleans, where probably half or better of the head chefs in the city are at least "other than white". I'd be interested to see what Food Network's target demographics are. "Other than white" may not be part of that target.

There are actually very few African-American executive chefs in New Orleans. A few months back, a friend and I came up with this list:

Breannan's (Chef Lazone Randolph)

Muriel's (Chef Erik Veney, now Ex. sous at Stella)

Upperline (Chef Ken Smith)

Morton's Steakhouse

Roux Bistro at Sheraton Hotel (Chef Christopher Brown)

I might be forgetting someone and there might have been changes recently, but only 5 (now 4) African-American executive chefs in city where African-Americans built the culture and the cuisine is sad.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Let's not forget New Orleans, where probably half or better of the head chefs in the city are at least "other than white". I'd be interested to see what Food Network's target demographics are. "Other than white" may not be part of that target.

There are actually very few African-American executive chefs in New Orleans. A few months back, a friend and I came up with this list:

Breannan's (Chef Lazone Randolph)

Muriel's (Chef Erik Veney, now Ex. sous at Stella)

Upperline (Chef Ken Smith)

Morton's Steakhouse

Roux Bistro at Sheraton Hotel (Chef Christopher Brown)

I might be forgetting someone and there might have been changes recently, but only 5 (now 4) African-American executive chefs in city where African-Americans built the culture and the cuisine is sad.

Any idea what things were like before the hurricane? If markedly different, it would be an interesting question to ask why.

This is an interesting topic that is somewhat surprising as the food service industry is one that has the reputation (rightly or wrongly) of being more open to merit than most. No doubt as in the rest of society in the US and elsewhere there are examples of overt racism. Those are not the examples that make this an interesting topic though as, hopefully, they are easier to ferret out and fix. It is the indirect forms of racism and sexism that I believe are more pernicious and more difficult to fix. One of those questions is whether any segment of the population is being excluded from particular positions or are there simply historical and/or societal reasons discouraging members of any background from particular positions. I certainly don't have the answers.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Any idea what things were like before the hurricane? If markedly different, it would be an interesting question to ask why.

It wasn't a lot different before the storm. Austin Leslie, who died shortly after Katrina, was at Pampy's and cooking in the Creole Soul tradition. He hoped to train a new generation of black chefs at his restaurant. Leah Chase ran Dookie Chase (and soon will again). There are probably a few more that I'm not thinking of.

There are certainly many black-run neighborhood restaurants, although fewer since the storm.

I don't have an answer to why there are few African-American chefs in the U.S. or New Orleans. In New Orleans, there aren't a whole lot of attractive economic opportunities luring away young talent.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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It is evidence enough that we are able to sit here and count on our fingers the number of minority TV personalities and exec chefs in the major culinary markets in the US.

What makes this conversation prove the original point is that we would never even consider counting or having a conversation about counting non-minority chefs and tv personalities.

-mike

-Mike & Andrea

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It is evidence enough that we are able to sit here and count on our fingers the number of minority TV personalities and exec chefs in the major culinary markets in the US. 

What makes this conversation prove the original point is that we would never even consider counting or having a conversation about counting non-minority chefs and tv personalities.

-mike

For the purposes of this discussion I am focusing on the world of haute cuisine. The numbers appear damning, but why are they the way they are? What are the underlying reasons? Individual racism is probably still a factor in at least some instances, but the question must go beyond that. Are black men and women entering the culinary field in proportional numbers? If not, why not? If they are, what is happening to them to hold them back? Is it inherent in the system? Are there cultural issues dissuading some black men and women from haute cuisine?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm curious why the cough over Ainsley Harriott. I was told by a very reputable, known British food writer that he was pretty much maligned in the U.K. and I'm curious why.

He had a short-lived show here in the U.S. which I found engaging and informative (I still butterfly a leg-of-lamb and splinter with rosemary the way HE taught me).

Maybe he was TOO gregarious but I liked it...

I think your last sentence gets at the root cause.

Ainsley Harriott was to American cooking shows what Richard Simmons was to American weight-loss programs. Both, I would suggest, are acquired tastes.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Any idea what things were like before the hurricane? If markedly different, it would be an interesting question to ask why.

It wasn't a lot different before the storm. Austin Leslie, who died shortly after Katrina, was at Pampy's and cooking in the Creole Soul tradition. He hoped to train a new generation of black chefs at his restaurant. Leah Chase ran Dookie Chase (and soon will again). There are probably a few more that I'm not thinking of.

There are certainly many black-run neighborhood restaurants, although fewer since the storm.

I don't have an answer to why there are few African-American chefs in the U.S. or New Orleans. In New Orleans, there aren't a whole lot of attractive economic opportunities luring away young talent.

Most of you are from elsewhere - but after living in this neck of the woods (southeast) for a reasonably long time - I can tell you that the best city in the US for an African-American who wants to do just about anything - related to cooking or not - is Atlanta. It has a large African-American population - and - unlike New Orleans - the population isn't dirt poor. I realize that the city isn't trendy in terms of "foodies" - but - if I were African-American - that's where I'd want to live and work. Robyn

P.S. You want to see African-American culture - food - and money - and a lot of cultural crossover - come on down to see the Honda Battle of the Bands in the Georgia Dome in January. I'm really looking forward to it (and keeping my fingers crossed that there isn't an ice storm that weekend).

Edited by robyn (log)
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I'm curious why the cough over Ainsley Harriott. I was told by a very reputable, known British food writer that he was pretty much maligned in the U.K. and I'm curious why.

He had a short-lived show here in the U.S. which I found engaging and informative (I still butterfly a leg-of-lamb and splinter with rosemary the way HE taught me).

Maybe he was TOO gregarious but I liked it...

I think your last sentence gets at the root cause.

Ainsley Harriott was to American cooking shows what Richard Simmons was to American weight-loss programs. Both, I would suggest, are acquired tastes.

I have no idea who Ainsley Harriot is, but I think, Gordon Elliot, would be pretty pissed off if he heard that! :laugh:

Edited by Daniel (log)
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It is evidence enough that we are able to sit here and count on our fingers the number of minority TV personalities and exec chefs in the major culinary markets in the US. 

What makes this conversation prove the original point is that we would never even consider counting or having a conversation about counting non-minority chefs and tv personalities.

-mike

For the purposes of this discussion I am focusing on the world of haute cuisine. The numbers appear damning, but why are they the way they are? What are the underlying reasons? Individual racism is probably still a factor in at least some instances, but the question must go beyond that. Are black men and women entering the culinary field in proportional numbers? If not, why not? If they are, what is happening to them to hold them back? Is it inherent in the system? Are there cultural issues dissuading some black men and women from haute cuisine?

all of the above!

--by the way, a while back I asked why there are so few people of Asian descent playing professional ice hockey?

Seems to me, looking for "proportional numbers" is a big part of the problem. We can and should look at systems in place that provide a track to success and make sure they are not "holding anyone back."

It also seems that working in a kitchen and/or entering a culinary school are not currently closed to any applicant for any reasons other than a desire to enter the field.

Economics and social factors, yes. Our society is changing though and these factors are lessening in their overall impact.

As more people like Samuelson become successul more African Americans will see benefit in working in the Haute cuisine industry as chefs. There are already many black cooks and restaurant owners throughout the country just as there are myriad Asians and others.

Haute cuisine is a very rarified end of the food and dining business and add to that "prominent" Haute cuisine chefs and the air is even thinner.

These chefs (like Samuelson) are also possessing of engaging personalities and an ability to promote themselves and their business endeavors.

The history of Haute cuisine is distinctly European in nature. As more and more different cuisines from different cultures emerge as accepted by more people and thus, increase in their importance as viable economic enterprises, the appeal of becoming a leader in any of them is also increasing.

One could ask why any people of any particular culture seem to "dominate" any industry.

The answers are more complex and varied---how come few African Americans are Lobster fishermen?--is answered mainly by their not living in the coastal areas of Maine etc.

I would venture that currently, working in a restaurant and becoming a chef is not seen as glamorous and rewarding (financially and otherwise) by not only African Americans but by most Americans period!

As it does, witness the success of TV programming and the emergence of personalities like Samuelson, the glamor will be embraced by more and more people of all ethnic backgrounds.

I believe that the real question here is not why an industry does not respect and embrace a particular peoples but rather why a particular people do not embrace and respect an industry.

Folks like Samuelson can go a long way to changing this!

Edited by JohnL (log)
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Read through the previous posts as I was making some lemon buttermilk pudding cake and bottarga and basil tomato sauce for dinner....  so if I missed something, forgive...

(1) when I was in the Twin Cities, I was ***SORELY*** disappointed to find that M Samuelsson had closed Aquavit--did not understand why because MN is swarming with Scandinavians.  I must say that while I was in MN--not to knock the state--I ran into more ignorance/stupidity re: ethnic diversity than anywhere else--even Alaska.  (I'm Asian American).  ANYWAY< so part of me thought, "Hm.  Is it because the Twin Cities tastes lean more toward boring Americana (which frankly is true re: Rochester MN), or is it because MS is not white?"  I do believe that it may have something more to do with the former than latter----HOWEVER, I want to assert that there is plenty of racism alive and well in the 10,000 lakes state, unfortunately.

(2) Also, Curtis Aikens was a fabulous FoodNetwork host--he's vegetarian, and his was the only veggie show.  Always promoted literacy as well.  Don't know why they stopped producing his show 'cause i MISS HIM!  He is such a cheery TV personality! (curtisaikens.com)

Whatever your definitions of "ignorance and stupidity re: ethnic diversity;"

I would note that Minneapolis has a thriving Asian restaurant scene as well as a large Asian population. Especially Hmong peoples from Laos and Viet Nam.

There are relatively large african American ans Native American populations as well.

(Prince is from and lives in the Minneapolis area)

Aquavit in Minneapolis was closed as was the flagship here in New York City. You seem to want to make a case of racism where none exists.

Racism?

Unfortunately, it resides everywhere in the entire world among all peoples. It certainly is not unique to Minneapolis!

also --since when is "Americana --boring"?????

:shock:

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For the purposes of this discussion I am focusing on the world of haute cuisine. The numbers appear damning, but why are they the way they are? What are the underlying reasons? Individual racism is probably still a factor in at least some instances, but the question must go beyond that. Are black men and women entering the culinary field in proportional numbers? If not, why not? If they are, what is happening to them to hold them back? Is it inherent in the system? Are there cultural issues dissuading some black men and women from haute cuisine?

See my first post (#6) and the link to Michael Ruhlman's article (NTY, April 2006), first mentioned by Russ Parsons and linked by Bethala. Here's a critical early paragraph:

Years ago, when cooking at even the best restaurants was considered menial labor, blacks often worked the stoves. But as employment options opened up for blacks in the 1960's and 70's, kitchen work became less attractive. Now, with the restaurant industry booming and chefs becoming celebrities and wealthy entrepreneurs, few blacks are sharing in that success, and as young black men and women enter the profession they are finding few mentors or peers. "The adulation that the chef gets now and the rank that chefs are on the social scale now, African-Americans are not taking part of it at all," said the chef and cookbook author Jacques Pépin.

I cannot over-emphasize how much Haute Cuisine and the culture of restaurants raises ambivalence for anyone whose family history or identity is tied to class.

Let's say you are African-American and you achieve stature as a chef, earning a reputation for intelligent creativity and enough to purchase a vacation home and contribute as much as your spouse to sending your three children to top-ranking colleges.

You may no longer be lifting heavy carcasses to butcher or sweating in a busy, hot kitchen, but you are providing a service to an elite clientele including many who dine out at restaurants as expensive as yours on a regular basis. Some of the doctors among them continue to work long, physically demanding hours as does the NBA star, or ballerina dating Tobey Maguire who tells her just how uncomfortable that Spiderman costume was. Yet most have not performed hard manual labor in their professional lives. When you sit down with your staff, you are not all dressed like your restaurant's patrons when they attend board meetings.

If your own parents fulfilled the American Dream, your career would simply be one more success story to add to the annual Christmas Letter.

However, if a rise in social standing retains a powerful hold on living memory, or if there are distinguishing degrees of educational, professional and/or financial status within your family and circle of friends, then there may be tension, especially if they cannot afford to dine at your restaurant. By virtue of your success, you identify with your patrons. However, you also identify with your family, the people you grew up with, and perhaps the members of your staff who may lack your ambition, training and talent, but just like their jobs.

It's too soon for the situation to be any different only four decades after the Civil Rights Act and, what, only a decade or so after being a chef started to become sexy in American popular culture. It was not an arbitrary decision to make Cliff Huxtable an OB/GYN and Clair, a lawyer.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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i don't believe it comes down to just one real question. i think the question of why an industry doesn't embrace and respect a particular people (or particular peoples) AND the quesion of why a particular people don't embrace and respect an industry are both valid and not mutually exclusive in this discussion. and i believe a number of people upthread did address one of the reasons the industry is not as fully embraced by blacks as it once had been: because of greater opportunites to work in, as many have stated, less unglamorous areas, as the opportunities for blacks have increased.

haven't things gotten better? that's a question that often comes up when race is discussed. it's always a funny question to me, because, of course things have gotten better. everyone knows that. so i sometimes wonder if there is a subtext to that question: things have gotten better, so stop your complaining, or things have gotten better, so race is not an issue in topic x . i am not saying that that was your subtext or that you had a subtext. but that doesn't mean there is not room for discussion. using that logic, why, discussion would have stopped after slaves were freed and jim crow took hold, just because that was "better" than slavery!

and we are not just looking at proportional numbers, but also (maybe more so) at the fact that the numbers have gone down for blacks, and so we're including in our discussion the multiple reasons for that decrease, including the aforementioned increase in opportunities, but also with racism certainly being one among those reasons.

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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  i am not saying that that was your subtext or that you had a subtext.  but that doesn't mean there is not room for discussion.  using that logic, why, discussion would have stopped after slaves were freed and jim crow took hold, just because that was "better" than slavery! 

I am not sure if you are referring to anyone in particular. Personally, I think that this very complex issue is certainly worthy of discussion. While I do not think that racism is necessarily a major part of the answer, it certainly can not be excluded at least to some degree as a contributing factor either directly or indirectly.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I am not sure if you are referring to anyone in particular. Personally, I think that this very complex issue is certainly worthy of discussion. While I do not think that racism is necessarily a major part of the answer, it certainly can not be excluded at least to some degree as a contributing factor either directly or indirectly.

i was actually referring to JohnL's statement, "Things are getting better all the time!", which, to his defense, i must say he posted as a statement - a true statement at that - rather than as a question.

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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haven't things gotten better?  that's a question that often comes up when race is discussed.  it's always a funny question to me, because, of course things have gotten better.  everyone knows that.  so i sometimes wonder if there is a subtext to that question: things have gotten better, so stop your complaining, or things have gotten better, so race is not an issue in topic x .  i am not saying that that was your subtext or that you had a subtext.  but that doesn't mean there is not room for discussion.  using that logic, why, discussion would have stopped after slaves were freed and jim crow took hold, just because that was "better" than slavery! 

On the general subject of "why do black folks complain about racism when things are clearly getting better" (and they are, on the whole):

I highly recommend to anyone who did not have to do so in their American history or politics classes that they read Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia. In the course of answering a survey requested by a French diplomat, Jefferson answers many questions about the evolving American culture and society in this book.

What is particularly useful for discussions like these is the part where, having concluded that blacks are the moral equals of whites and deserved freedom and dignity, he then went on to conclude that, once free, they could not live in the same country with their former enslavers. One of the reasons he gave was (I'm paraphrasing) "the memory of the million injustices suffered by the blacks."

Call it a grudge deferred if you will, but part of the reason (besides its factuality) many blacks go on about the persistence and influence of racism, even where it is not as influential as either it once was or as some believe, is because we have gotten to know about those past injustices more and feel them more strongly since finally becoming the moral and legal equals of whites, at least in the American context.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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For the purposes of this discussion I am focusing on the world of haute cuisine. The numbers appear damning, but why are they the way they are? What are the underlying reasons? Individual racism is probably still a factor in at least some instances, but the question must go beyond that. Are black men and women entering the culinary field in proportional numbers? If not, why not? If they are, what is happening to them to hold them back? Is it inherent in the system? Are there cultural issues dissuading some black men and women from haute cuisine?

See my first post (#6) and the link to Michael Ruhlman's article (NTY, April 2006), first mentioned by Russ Parsons and linked by Bethala. Here's a critical early paragraph:

Years ago, when cooking at even the best restaurants was considered menial labor, blacks often worked the stoves. But as employment options opened up for blacks in the 1960's and 70's, kitchen work became less attractive. Now, with the restaurant industry booming and chefs becoming celebrities and wealthy entrepreneurs, few blacks are sharing in that success, and as young black men and women enter the profession they are finding few mentors or peers. "The adulation that the chef gets now and the rank that chefs are on the social scale now, African-Americans are not taking part of it at all," said the chef and cookbook author Jacques Pépin.

I cannot over-emphasize how much Haute Cuisine and the culture of restaurants raises ambivalence for anyone whose family history or identity is tied to class.

Let's say you are African-American and you achieve stature as a chef, earning a reputation for intelligent creativity and enough to purchase a vacation home and contribute as much as your spouse to sending your three children to top-ranking colleges.

You may no longer be lifting heavy carcasses to butcher or sweating in a busy, hot kitchen, but you are providing a service to an elite clientele including many who dine out at restaurants as expensive as yours on a regular basis. Some of the doctors among them continue to work long, physically demanding hours as does the NBA star, or ballerina dating Tobey Maguire who tells her just how uncomfortable that Spiderman costume was. Yet most have not performed hard manual labor in their professional lives. When you sit down with your staff, you are not all dressed like your restaurant's patrons when they attend board meetings.

If your own parents fulfilled the American Dream, your career would simply be one more success story to add to the annual Christmas Letter.

However, if a rise in social standing retains a powerful hold on living memory, or if there are distinguishing degrees of educational, professional and/or financial status within your family and circle of friends, then there may be tension, especially if they cannot afford to dine at your restaurant. By virtue of your success, you identify with your patrons. However, you also identify with your family, the people you grew up with, and perhaps the members of your staff who may lack your ambition, training and talent, but just like their jobs.

It's too soon for the situation to be any different only four decades after the Civil Rights Act and, what, only a decade or so after being a chef started to become sexy in American popular culture. It was not an arbitrary decision to make Cliff Huxtable an OB/GYN and Clair, a lawyer.

My god this is so well put it makes my head spin. I identify strongly with this statement. I grew up privileged and bi-racial. I have never had any discofort or insecurity due to my socioeconimic standing- there was never any need. My mothers side of the family is not as well off (though, totally just fine, upper middle class) and African- American. All of my cousins are going into law or business, secure, well respected arts. I think they aspire to be even bigger than the kitchen, not to prove a point necessarily, but because why not be the best you can be? In Richmond, Va (where they're from) There a few haute cuise restaurants, so the glamorous picture of chefdom had not been painted for them. Besides, doctors and lawers are respected in society why not choose a professional route which garners instant respect and social security?

Like I said, I grew up with an imbued sence of security (thanks mom and dad) i'm an overprivileged brat, so, of course I feel as if the grime from the kitchen just washes right off me after my shift. I don't need to feel owned by my chef, thus I don't feel uncomfortable. Had I grown up under different circumstances, the constant grinding and milataristic repremands may have highlighted a more historic hegemony

Another thing is this; If you were somehow uncomfortable with you social standing would you take a job where you willingly enslave yourself to a (usually white man?)

"yes Chef" can easily sound and feel very close to saying "yes master" and Black people in America may not see the value of that realtionship by any means. There is no glamor in this kind of relationship in the Black community, it seems, except by those so privileged (or dissconected to their roots) that it can be over looked.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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I am not sure if you are referring to anyone in particular. Personally, I think that this very complex issue is certainly worthy of discussion. While I do not think that racism is necessarily a major part of the answer, it certainly can not be excluded at least to some degree as a contributing factor either directly or indirectly.

i was actually referring to JohnL's statement, "Things are getting better all the time!", which, to his defense, i must say he posted as a statement - a true statement at that - rather than as a question.

It is people who see everything in simplistic terms, those who look at numbers and attribute racism as the reason, who I am addressing.

Things have "gotten better" to the point that one needs to look at a lot more than racism to attempt to explain a lot of these issues. Sure racism exists, it will always exist, it exists in all societies and among all peoples. That said we can deal with institutional racism via laws and knowledge etc.

I would be comfortable with the notion that the restaurant industry is not racist. I would also believe that professions attract people who possess those attributes required to work successfully in that business. Obese people are not likely to be wooed by the cliff diving business not thin people by the sumo wrestling industry.

I would say that an overweight cliff diver who could master the job would probably be highly celebrated! Same for a hundred eighty pound sumo wrestler who could best his opponents.

Restaurant work is hard labor--as many in the business are often reminding us here at eGullett.

As a rule, it has not been particularly glamorous nor profitable compared to myriad other industries.

Hence, it makes sense to assume that this is a case of an ethnic group not embracing an industry (rather than other way round).

But again, as one poster noted, the increased attendance by African Americans at cooking schools indicates--things are truly "getting better."

Again, is the fact that though there seems to be an abundance of line cooks of Mexican origin here in New York kitchens would one looking at the dearth of mexican Americans on the Food Network hosting cooking shows indicate that the FN is racist? Or that because there are few executive chefs of Mexican American origin running kitchens mean the restaurants here in NY are racist?

Is it more likely that the answer lies in the fact that these line cooks are mostly from poor backgrounds and do not have the education the mastery of English the business acumen etc to

run a restaurant or host a TV show!

It is more likely that as more and more of these poor people obtain the skills we will see more achieving success and appearing on TV. Douglas Rodriguez et al will be joined by others.

It is also a fact that as people gain more and more education they increase their options as to various industries they would enter and work in and the likelihood they will succeed in that industry.

Thus, the restaurant industry is in competition with many others for the "best and brightest."

I firmly believe that as people like Samuelson and Alice Waters (the impact of her work with inner city kids has yet to be really felt) multiply---along with many other factors (remember things are getting better overall) the pool of potential talent increases--young people will become engaged about food etc and may be interested in a career some time later.

Haute cuisine is at the end of a funnel--few get through to be leaders, owners, trend setters and media figures. Right now, I just don't see a screen placed over the opening to the funnel keeping anyone out for any reason.

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