by Cesca Janece Waterfield
African American food and wine professionals are increasingly leading trends and impacting the course of American cuisine. Perhaps the most exciting part is that they often maintain their own identity and African American culture, introducing long-held African American traditions, techniques, and flavors to the world.
She was a much-loved reporter for Vibe Magazine, and has interviewed former President Bill Clinton, P. Diddy Combs, Beyonce, Nas, and more. But these days, Sunny Anderson is more often answering questions as her own star rises. Host of Food Network’s “How’d That Get on My Plate?” and “Cooking for Real,” Sunny is a veteran of the Air Force who has traveled widely. Her travels influence recipes for her down-to-earth comfort foods, which are ideal for people who want to enjoy delicious meals that are affordable.
Catch up with Sunny at her blog, http://SunnyAnderson.blogspot.com.
The title “Sommelier” is reserved for very few. These wine professionals typically spend years building their knowledge and palates to assist others in selecting and appreciating wine. Most sommeliers are older, and very few are black. In 2003, at only 30 years old, Andre Mack became the first African American to win the title of Best Young Sommelier in America. It wasn’t just his age that shocked many, but that he’d acquired such a highly-developed skill less than three years after he discovered his interest!
While the world of sommeliers is one of wealth, prestige, and can often be snobbish, Andre is known for being down-to-earth and fun. He loves listening to hip-hop and jazz and one of his favorite places to chill is Harlem Vintage, an African American-owned wine store in Harlem. He enjoys beer, although growing up, his parents rarely drank alcohol. In fact, he admits that a lot of his family had no idea what a “sommelier” is, but that they’ve always supported him as he worked his way up in restaurants from dishwasher to waiter. While working at the Palm in San Antonio, he became interested in wine and devoted himself to learning about it. After being named “Best Young Sommelier” a few years later, he worked as head sommelier for three years at a four-star restaurant in New York. Today, he runs his own wine company, Mouton Noir Wines. He’s often featured in Black Enterprise and Food and Wine Magazine. He is at work on a book about African Americans and their influence on the American wine industry.
Andre Mack’s Soul Food and Wine Pairings
With Smothered Pork Chops, Andre recommends a Pinot Gris. With Barbeque Ribs, try a bold Zinfandel or Chateauneuf du Pape. With Fried Chicken, Andre likes Chardonnays from California. During Thanksgiving, when Smoked Turkey Legs are the seasonal treat, try a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, Andre says.
Aaron McCargo Jr. “Big Daddy”
According to Nielson ratings, an average of four million viewers tuned in to watch each episode leading to Aaron’s triumph in “The Next Food Network Star.” The fourth season of the reality show stands as the highest-rated television show in Network history. As winner, Aaron got his own daytime cooking series, Big Daddy’s House, which premiered in August. The show reflects McCargo’s talent for bold flavors and simple preparation, while his charismatic personality keeps foodies as well as the curious watching.
Fewer than 46 restaurants in the nation hold the prestigious AAA Five-Diamond Rating. The Oakroom in Louisville is one of them, and the only restaurant in Kentucky to have earned such distinction. Executive Chef Todd Richards brings his love for classic techniques to ingredients and flavors based in African American cuisine to create dishes like barbequed quail, short ribs in red wine sauce, and strawberry rhubarb souffle. He maintains a blog at http://ChefToddRichards.blogspot.com and the brother is candid and funny.
Chefs to explore include the venerable Edna Lewis and young Marcus Samuelsson.