By CultureBanx Team
- Art Basel Miami is spotlighting the business of Black-owned restaurants as a way of creating culturally relevant culinary art
- In 2021, a little more than 17% of chefs and head cooks were Black
Art Basel Miami sits at the intersection of food, art and culture while shedding a new spotlight on the culinary world of Black food creativity. Specifically, the business of Black-owned restaurants, with chefs like Mashama Bailey, Co-Owner of The Grey in Savannah, GA and Diner Bar in Austin, TX, will be on full display through unique dining experiences, as a way of creating culturally relevant culinary art. This attention to Black-owned dining establishments is centuries overdue, with the legacy of Black restaurateurs going back more than 250 years.
Why This Matters: Black restaurateurs have seen opportunities in long-standing culinary traditions, and the chefs at the helm pointedly defy expectations with the food they served. For example, Bailey, who is a James Beard award winner for Best Chef: Southeast, is putting her culture and talent on display as part of the American Express presents SAVOR & SOUL™ series during Art Basel Miami. Beyond the food is an immersive experience on the current state of Black art and artists through a viewing of Phillip K. Smith III’s Garden of Reflections.
“Miami is such a lively and vibrant city, rich in Caribbean culture,” said Bailey. “We are excited to showcase dishes rooted in these cultures and cook for people who love art and beauty, and who have a discerning eye and palate – it is always a welcomed challenge.”
She is fusing Black culinary cuisine with art in a unique way by celebrating the flavors of African American, African, and Caribbean cuisine, all of which reside in Miami. American Express is increasing the visibility and opportunities that Black chefs are receiving by working with Bailey.
“During Art Basel week, when we see reservation demand in Miami spike, we’ll supercharge what Resy is known for: guiding you to and helping you get into the best restaurants, said Alex Lee, CEO of Resy and VP of American Express Dining”
Cultivating Culinary Culture: There are other groups highlighting Black restaurant excellence. Warren Luckett’s Black Restaurant Week allows patrons to discover Black-owned restaurants and culinary businesses in their community. It runs events throughout the year in 14 areas across the country where Black chefs are celebrated for their artistry and innovation.
“When you look at the important place that food holds for the Black community, our chefs are the main architects of culinary culture as a way to spur economic opportunity,” said Luckett, Founder of Black Restaurant Weeks.
There is still more work needed to properly elevate Black chefs, because just last year, only 17% of chefs and head cooks were Black. Interestingly enough, this is only about five percentage points higher than their representation in the entire workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of the 145,000 recognized chefs in the U.S., mostly men, approximately 10% are Black.
Black chefs remain underrepresented in fine dining, now they are getting new recognition. Before 2021, Black chefs had gone 14 years without winning in any of the best chef or outstanding restaurant categories of the James Beard awards. However, over the past two years, six black chefs have won in those categories, according to the New York Times.
In the U.S. there are approximately 200 Michelin Star restaurants and only 29 of them are Black owned. More Black restaurateurs should perhaps receive this rating, as it can increase business traffic along with prices by 15% to 80%.
What’s Next: The market for work by African American artists “is at an inflection point globally right now—that’s a fact. And it’s not going away,” Tim Blum of Blum & Poe told ArtNet. It’s plausible that the same can be said of Black culinary excellence. Black chefs are part of an under-appreciated narrative of perseverance, creativity, and now, more frequently, triumph. They continue to strike while the iron’s hot!
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