American Pantry UK

American Pantry UK Blog

Ten African-Americans every American food lover needs to know

In the name of Black History Month, here are ten of the greatest African-American contributors to American cuisine, past and present:


Lloyd Augustus Hall

Chemist, born 1894. Specialist in food preservation, amassing 59 patents. Developed process of speed-curing meats such as hot dogs and bacon. Imagine America with less hot dogs and bacon, and you’ll get a sense of how important this guy is.



The Neelys

Restaurant owners and hosts of Down Home with The Neelys, one of the most-watched food programmes in America. Famed for their BBQ and home cooking.




Don Thompson

Current CEO of McDonald’s, driving force behind inclusion of healthier options and more responsible sourcing. Also invented robotic equipment for food transport, as well as control circuits for cooking. Think what you will, but the coffee has gotten better.




George Washington Carver

Born 1864, invented peanut butter. To say that he’s the guy who invented peanut butter, though, is like saying Bob Geldof’s that guy from the Boomtown Rats. Carver, through his promotion of crop rotation, effectively saved American agriculture when the boll weevil killed off cotton. He appeared on a postage stamp only five years after his death and is still recognised as one of America’s greatest inventors.


Kevin Sbraga

Born 1979, first African-American winner of the popular US TV programme, Top Chef. His eponymous modern American restaurant has received high praise from Esquire and Zagat. One to watch.



Zephyr Wright

Cook to President Lyndon B Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird. She’s not only famous for her recipe for chili, she is also credited with influencing President Johnson’s backing of the Civil Rights Act. While in Texas on an official visit, she was denied service and left to eat Vienna sausages from a grocery store. If you were born before 1964, a presidential chef was turned away from a restaurant in your lifetime. Her understandable refusal to return to Texas shaped history.

ELEdna Lewis

Born 1916, called the South’s answer to Julia Child. Credited for popularising Southern US food in New York City, cooked for notables such as William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon and Marlene Dietrich. Awarded Living Legend award by James Beard Foundation, authored the seminal The Taste of Country Cooking.

LCLeah Chase

New Orleans chef born 1923. Famously put Jamie Oliver in his place when he suggested that okra was Ethnic food. In the 1950s, took the helm at her husband’s restaurant, the legendary Dooky Chase, and shifted culinary focus to its world-renowned Creole cuisine. Active in the Civil Rights movement, cooked for Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin and James Meredith. Model for Princess Tiana in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.



Alfred L. Cralle

Invented the ice cream scoop in 1897. Need we say more?



fjFrederick Jones

Refrigeration pioneer born in 1893. Awarded 61 patents, including many that made the long-haul transportation of fresh food possible. His advancements not only helped preserve blood on the battlefields in WWII, but they also gave rise to the huge culinary explosion of the 1950s (including the birth of the first franchise – McDonald’s).


Honorable Mentions

Marcus Samuelsson is Swedish, but given that he works and lives in America, we’ll mention him. Samuelsson is the youngest person to ever receive a three star restaurant review from The New York Times and was a guest chef for President Barack Obama’s first state dinner. Delilah Winders also gets a mention for having the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever (according to Oprah, the chief adjudicator on such matters) as well as achieving celebrity chef status.

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