Industry News

Black Foodservice History: Edna Lewis

Throughout Black History Month, IFDA will be honoring the rich legacy of Black Americans in our nation’s culinary history. Today we shine a light on Edna Lewis, a groundbreaking chef and cookbook writer who helped elevate and preserve traditional Southern cuisine.

After a childhood spent cooking over a wood-fired stove in her small Virginia town, Lewis took New York City by storm with her irresistible Southern fare. Celebrities such as Tennessee Williams and Gloria Vanderbilt would crowd into Café Nicholson – a restaurant she co-founded in 1948 – to enjoy a menu inspired by the country cooking of her youth, including her famous chocolate soufflé.

After nearly two decades of sharing her love for food and history as a chef, caterer, museum lecturer, and farmer, Lewis put her expertise to paper in several acclaimed cookbooks. Her seminal The Taste of Country Cooking recorded her memories and recipes from life in the South, becoming one of the most revered and best-selling cookbooks of all time.

Lewis spent her later years working to preserve the traditions of Southern cooking, including founding the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food. Her accolades include the first-ever James Beard Living Legend Award, an honorary Ph.D. in Culinary Arts from Jonson & Wales University, being named a Grand Dame of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, and receiving a posthumous United States postal stamp with her image.

Learn more about Edna Lewis’ life and contributions to our nation’s culinary history.