An icon among culinary professionals, Edna Lewis (1916-2016) was an African-American woman chef from an era when those words rarely appeared together. Miss Lewis wrote some of America’s most resonant, lyrical and significant cookbooks as a means of exploring her memories of childhood in Freetown, Virginia, a community founded by black families freed from slavery. With observations that read like poetry, Lewis’ writing was subtly subversive, historically illuminating and deeply personal.
Celebrated as The Grande Dame of Southern Cooking, Lewis rose to prominence as a chef and cookbook author, eventually receiving accolades from such culinary groups as the Southern Foodways Alliance and the James Beard Foundation. She aimed to help people understand the culinary and cultural sophistication of Southern cooking. In a 1990 interview for the Washington Post, she said, “It’s not all fried chicken and greasy greens.”
Join us to hear food-world rock stars and contributing essayists (Edna Lewis: At the Table with An American Original) Toni Tipton-Martin, Michael Twitty, and Kevin West speak of their encounters with Lewis– in person and on the page– illuminating her legacy for a new generation. The panel will be moderated by the book’s editor, Sara Franklin. Franklin writes, “From chef to political activist, Edna Lewis has been a trailblazer in the revival of regional cooking, and a progenitor of the farm-to-table movement.”
Sara Franklin is a writer, oral historian, scholar, avid home cook and gardener. She loves feeding people and being fed.
Over the past decade, Franklin has worked as a full-time farmer, restaurant reviewer, anti-poverty and sustainable agriculture policy advocate, urban agriculture instructor, researcher and professional pie baker.
Her first book, Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original is a collection of essays she commissioned and edited on the renowned Southern chef and food writer. She recently finished her PhD in Food Studies at NYU, and teaches courses on food culture and writing at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and via the NYU Prison Education Initiative at Wallkill Correctional Facility.
Franklin lives with her husband, chef Chris Bradley (Phoenicia Diner), their twins Cal and Eliza, and a rambunctious Boston terrier in Kingston, New York.
For Franklin, it’s all food, all the time.
Toni Tipton-Martin is an award-winning food and nutrition journalist and community activist who is busy building a healthier community through her books, classes, and foundation. She is the author of The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks (University of Texas) – a widely-acclaimed, annotated bibliography that tells the story behind her rare collection. The Jemima Code is also the title of a traveling exhibit featuring larger-than-life images of black cooks at work.
In 1991, Tipton-Martin became the first African American woman to hold the position of food editor at a major daily newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer. First Lady Michelle Obama invited her to the White House twice for her outreach to help families live healthier lives. In 2014 she earned the Southern Foodways Alliance John Egerton Prize for this work. With the prize as seed money, she hosted Soul Summit: A Conversation About Race, Identity, Power and Food. This unprecedented 3-day gathering invited writers, scholars, authors, chefs, and students interested in food justice to come together and celebrate African American Foodways.
Tipton-Martin is a James Beard Book Award winner, and recently appeared as a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef.
Culinary and Cultural Historian
Michael W. Twitty is a noted culinary and cultural historian who interprets the experiences of enslaved African Americans through food and its preparation. He created Afroculinaria.com, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacy, and was honored by FirstWeFeast.com as one of twenty greatest food bloggers of all time. He has appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, Many Rivers to Cross with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, and has lectured to more than 250 groups including at Yale, Oxford and Carnegie Mellon Universities, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Michael has been invited to speak around the world, from the MAD Symposium in Copenhagen to the Guardian Festival of Ideas in London to film festivals in Jerusalem, all on culinary justice and the African American impact on Southern foodways. His work has been featured in many publications and websites including Ebony, The Guardian, Eater.com and NPR’s Codeswitch blog. He has appeared on NPR on a number of occasions including being interviewed on the acclaimed food program, The Splendid Table. He has also served as a judge for the James Beard Awards and is a Smith fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance and has most recently been named a TED fellow and speaker. He was recently named one of “Fifty People Changing the South” by Southern Living and one of the “Five Cheftavists to Watch” by TakePart.Com. HarperCollins will release Twitty’s first major book in 2017: The Cooking Gene won the 2018 James Beard Award for best writing, as well as book of the year.
Kevin West is the author of Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving and, most recently, a contributor to America: The Cookbook and Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original. His family on both sides is from East Tennessee, and has been farming in Blount County at the foot of the Great Smokey Mountains for 150 years. West currently lives in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts – his preserving work is inspired by Southern Appalachian food culture, historic American cookery books, and today’s progressive agricultural ideals.