5 Popular African-American Chefs And Their Essential Cookbooks
Image Credit: African American Cookbooks, from right, Black Food, The Taste of Country Cooking and Vibration Cooking, via Instagram

African-American cuisine, also known as Soul Food, has a special place in the hearts of Americans. Not only did this cuisine shape the culinary picture of the country, but it also became an integral part of daily cooking without which no meal can be imagined. For centuries, the African diaspora reimagined the classic ingredients and created some of the iconic recipes that are loved all over the world.

Dishes like Fried Chicken, Mac n’ Cheese, Fried Okra, Peach Cobbler, and Cornbread were the gifts of this delightful influence. Holding a significant place in America’s culture, Soul Foods has always demonstrated the best use of limited resources during times of slavery and segregation. Today, these foods have become a cherished part of America’s cuisine.

Several popular chefs were instrumental in recreating these classics and making the whole world aware of their deliciousness. Their famous cookbooks have perfectly demonstrated the African perspectives on the dishes. It also included useful information so that everyone can gain better insights into how the dish’s authenticity portrays the cultural narratives.

5 Amazing Cookbooks That Shaped The Soul Food In America

1) Black Food: Stories, Art & Recipes From Across the African Diaspora By Bryant Terry

This cookbook by celebrity chef Bryant Terry is a culinary odyssey that transcends the kitchen. This extraordinary cookbook is a sensory journey through the African diaspora, weaving together recipes, art, music, and essays. Terry curates an enriching experience with themed playlists, chapters exploring concepts like 'Black Future' and 'Migrations,' and insightful pieces on Black church traditions, self-care, and queerness. Featuring contributions from over 100 influential Black figures worldwide, 'Black Food' is a groundbreaking tribute to Black culinary creativity, capturing the essence of heritage, resilience, and imagination. A visual and spiritual feast, this book redefines the celebration of Black culture through food.

Image Credit:  Bryant Terry | Instagram

2) The Taste of Cooking By Edna Lewis

This classic cookbook by 'First Lady of Southern Cooking,’ Edna Lewis, embraces the local resources and seasonal recipes that she grew up making in her kitchen. This classic cookbook transports you to a small farming community settled by freed slaves, where Lewis shares seasonal recipes cultivated in her childhood. With menus for each season, Lewis intricately details the preparation of timeless dishes, from the fresh taste of spring to the hearty fare of winter. More than a cookbook, it's a contemplative travelogue, offering a glimpse into the author's life and a flavourful celebration of Black Southern culinary excellence.

3) Vibration Cooking Or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl By Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor

First published in 1970, this classic cookbook or memoir was written with a focus on the author's experiences and cultural encounters. When the term “Soul Food” was gaining a common use in language, the critics labelled it as an advocate of the cuisine, but Smart-Grosvenor kept its focus on the message as a source of pride and validation for black femininity. Smart-Grosvenor shares her journey from the Gullah culture in South Carolina to the cosmopolitan scenes of Paris, Rome, and New York. The book introduces a rich cast of characters and explores the author's unique approach to cooking—she measures and weighs nothing, cooking "by vibration."

4) The Dooky Chase Cookbook By Leah Chase 

The Dooky Chase Cookbook is an acclaimed cookbook by legendary chef Leah Chase that features the celebrated Creole cuisine. The late owner of Dooky Chase, a famed and historic restaurant, Leah Chase's influence on American history, activism, and food is profound. This cookbook is a collection of cherished Creole recipes, lively stories, and anecdotes that reflect the restaurant's traditions. Enriched with African American art, it pays homage to Chase's legacy and contributions to the culinary and cultural revival of New Orleans.

5) The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks By Toni Tipton-Martin

"The Jemima Code" by Toni Tipton-Martin was a groundbreaking book that meticulously merged over 150 cookbooks authored by Black Americans. This one comprehensive book contained several cookbooks spanning from an 1827 house servant's manual to contemporary classics by legends like Edna Lewis. Toni unveils the true impact of black women on American cuisine, dispelling stereotypes and celebrating their creative contributions. This book has won several prestigious awards including the James Beard Foundation Book Award 2016, Art of Eating Prize, 2015 and BCALA Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation 2016.

These timeless classics by renowned chefs have made a huge contribution to spreading the awareness of Black cuisine. Portraying a glimpse into how the migrated communities survived through adversities, these cookbooks pay homage to the culinary arts that were cultivated in those times.