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6 Food and Drink Recipes that Honor Black History Month

By: Erin Byers Murray

These Black chefs and bartenders share the stories behind each dish

Todd Richards
Toni Tipton-Martin
Duane Nutter
Greg Collier
Justin Hazelton
Tiffanie Barriere

This Black History Month, we turned to six Black experts—chefs, cookbook authors, mixologists—to gather recipes that celebrate the Black contributions to our regional cuisine. Here, they share the inspiration behind each dish and drink, revealing notable histories as well as their own roots.

Mom’s Fried Catfish with Hot Sauce

From Todd Richards, the Soulful Company Restaurant Group, Atlanta

“My mother made catfish on Fridays as part of her weekly rotation of dishes. I was always amazed by the crispiness of her fish! She let it sit in cornmeal for about 5 minutes—a technique I still use today at my restaurant, Soul: Food & Culture, in Atlanta.”

Creole Fried Chicken

By Toni Tipton-Martin, adapted from Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking

“What is it that gives Creole fried chicken that NOLA swagger? Some would argue that it’s the sliced pickle and a garnish of minced garlic and parsley served with the fried chicken in chef Austin Leslie’s French Quarter restaurant, Chez Helene. But Leslie omitted that popular embellishment in the printed recipe published in the 1978 edition of Creole Feast: Fifteen Master Chefs of New Orleans Reveal Their Secrets and in his own recipe catalogue, Chez Helene: House of Good Food Cookbook.

So I queried other Creole authors to see what they had to say. Leah Chase soaked chicken parts in evaporated milk and added a sprinkle of dried thyme to the marinade. Queen Ida Guillory stirred a bit of baking powder into the flour before dusting the chicken to give it an extra-crispy, light crust. Between Leslie’s cream-based batter and Lena Richard’s 1939 recipe for chicken parts rolled in a mixture of flour batter and cracker meal, Richard’s is the one I like best. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash and Pork Belly

From Duane Nutter, Southern National, Mobile, Alabama

“My mom never really made mac and cheese—her version was baked spaghetti with smoked gouda. I took her flavor profile and gave it a chef’s touch. Hope you enjoy my mom’s flava reimagined through her son’s eyes!”

Catfish Stew over Rice

From Greg Collier, Leah & Louise, Charlotte, North Carolina 

“I love the dish because it’s who I am and represents the range of flavors and ingredients in the Southern food canon. Carolina gold rice, catfish, field peas, trinity, and brown roux are some of the most underrated yet most important parts of our cuisine.”

Black Maybe

From Justin Hazelton, Leah & Louise, Charlotte, North Carolina

“This cocktail comes from a mistake and a masterpiece. The mistake came from me burning smoked brown sugar that I was making for a syrup. We don’t waste at Leah & Louise, so we used it and it had this richness and complexity that couldn’t be denied. Later someone asked me what color the drink would come out, I replied “maybe black.” The masterpiece is the song that inspired the name of this cocktail, “Black Maybe,” by Common. The first line of the song goes “I heard a white man’s yes is a black maybe.” This line has rang true in so many facets of the black experience in America. We have come a long way but have so far to go to reach true equality.”

Bizzy Izzy Highball

From Tiffanie Barriere, The Drinking Coach

“Tom Bullock was born in Louisville on October 18, 1872, less than a decade after the Civil War. His father, also named Thomas Bullock, was a former slave who fought for the Union Army and worked as a furniture mover after the war. One of the Southern traditions that blossomed in Louisville after the Civil War was the use of African-American bartenders. Because of the earnings for tips, and the opportunity to serve some of the country’s elite, tending bar in fancy places was considered a desirable job pre-Prohibition and also limited to white men in most major cities. (Cincinnati’s Atlas Hotel was the subject of a citywide boycott in 1893 after the owner hired an African-American bartender named Louis Deal.)

In 1917, Bullock became the first African American to pen a cocktail book, The Ideal Bartender, which was originally published by St. Louis-based Buxton & Skinner. Sadly, just three years later, Prohibition was enacted, and while Bullock enjoyed his reputation, few black bartenders gained shine pre- and post-Prohibition. This is Tom’s cocktail called the Bizzy Izzy and it’s for him, my ancestors, and all Black bartenders who have made happiness along with creating flavor during a time in their lives they weren’t respected nor honored outside of their own.”

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