Imagine you’re seated at a kitchen table. Around it, an amalgam of the wisest leaders in food, spanning both time and place — Africa, New Orleans, Rome, beyond — are gathered. It’s here they’ve come to share wisdom, family recipes and sage advice; insight as to they got started; where they find joy; the one recipe they’d share if they had to pick; and how to cook like Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, whose kitchen ran exclusively on the vibrations of intuition.
Chef and writer Klancy Miller generously offers readers a place at that proverbial table in her latest book, “For The Culture: Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food: Interviews, Inspiration, and Recipes.”
“For the Culture” casts new light on legends like Leah Chase (of renowned Dooky Chase’s in New Orleans) and Edna Lewis (restaurateur, pheasant farmer, author — truly a food world multihyphenate who predates the term’s ubiquity). Profiles of these and other historical luminaries reside alongside insights from modern growers including Soulfire Farm co-founder Leah Penniman, who uses Afro-Indigenous methods to restore the land and feed her community; Ashtin Berry, an activist, sommelier and mixologist creating radical change in the hospitality industry and beyond; and Sophia Roe, a TV host and producer showcasing the inside stories behind today’s food systems.
The book is an anthology of sorts, chronicling the advice and lived experience Klancy wishes had been available to her way back when. Like a love letter to her younger self and the luminaries in the book. Following a non-linear path into food, Klancy got her start as a weekend prep cook under Ellen Yin at farm-to-table early adopter, Fork, in Philadelphia. (Proof of the restaurant’s prognostic power: it celebrates a rare 25 years in business).
“The fact that Ellen, as the owner, was supportive of my start there was really great.” Klancy recalls of her initial experience in the business. “And my family used to eat at Fork. Through the years, we’ve always been Fork enthusiasts. So I’ve had a rapport with Ellen. I really admire her longevity in the business, her values and the person she is. She’s one mentor who has been a longtime supporter and just an awesome person. When I was in Paris, she would be there on vacation and we would eat together.”
Klancy at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Image courtesy of the author.
After taking courses in filmmaking, acting and cooking, Klancy followed her passion to pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she later worked as a recipe developer. As a now-established entity in the culinary space, Klancy wondered what it might have been like to have had access to a braintrust of extraordinary women, like those profiled within the pages of her book — and learned from their stories.
“I think there are things — there are beginner questions — but also questions for people, no matter where you are on your path, it’s helpful information, she continues. “And I still find myself in need of helpful information. But I also really wanted to share a lot of really rich, interesting stories.”
Klancy in Jamaica with Jacqui Sinclair. Image courtesy of the author.
“For the Culture” is a deeply thoughtful resource for those looking to navigate the expansive landscape of food through the lens of Black women and femmes, or purely to enjoy the recipes. It shares hard-won wisdom and invaluable learnings from a diverse group of Klancy’s global network — offering a far-reaching range of geographical representation and thoughts about food and how it functions.
This month, Klancy brings For The Culture to life through her book launch events at both Ace Hotel Brooklyn (Sept 19) and Ace Hotel DTLA (Sept 25) and will be joined by friends for panel discussions, conversations and convivial celebration.
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Ace Hotel Kyoto | March 14, 2023
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