African Americans have influenced the culinary landscape of America in more ways than just the soul food movement. Sure, these are delicious additions to the American cannon of good eats and comfort food, but there are many African Americans that have been vital creators and inventors and have shaped food industries.
Even in a segregated America, African Americans made their mark in culinary history as caterers like Robert Bogel and restaurateurs like Joseph Lee. They formed the United Public Waiters’ Mutual Beneficial Association in 1869 to police the quality of food and waiter services and provide funds for members when they become ill. Such developments are at odds with the stereotype of the “Mammie” in the plantation kitchen.
It was also during this time that African Americans made advancements in food science and technology that are still important to consumers today.
Today, African American food personalities are on TV and touring the country like G. Garvin, whipping up snacks like Carla Hall; running restaurant empires like Slyvia Woods, Melba Wilson and B. Smith; writing and blogging about black culinary history like Toni Tipton-Martin, Jessica B Harris and Michael W. Twitty; and winning awards like Patrick Clark and Devin McDavid.
The contributions of black Americans have made the creation, preservation, transportation and exploration of foods more practical, efficient, safer and more enticing. African Americans have fed presidents and astronauts, introduced cuisines and revolutionized food sciences. From something as simple as an ice cream scoop or as commonplace as refrigerated trucking, African Americans have always been pushing food forward.