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A Belle Époque for African-American Cooking

Jeff Gordinier | The New York Times   in  · ·
February 7, 2016

At Salare, a restaurant in Seattle, Edouardo Jordan serves winter squash with fried okra and a seed-based sauce modeled on the egusi stews of Nigeria.

In “The Up South Cookbook” by the Brooklyn author Nicole A. Taylor, collard greens are cooked Japanese style, with a coating of sesame dressing.

And in California, chefs create swoon-inducing and deeply personal takes on shrimp and grits at places like Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, 1300 on Fillmore in San Francisco and Willie Jane and Post & Beam in Los Angeles.

Across the country, a new generation of black chefs and cookbook authors has been reinventing, reinterpreting and reinvigorating what’s thought of as African-American food. Their work is part of the culinary development and self-discovery that has been going on for decades — centuries, really — but for anyone sampling their handiwork now, it’s clear that we’re in the middle of a belle époque.

All sorts of revolutions in African-American cooking have been building momentum. Especially on the West Coast, age-old conventions of soul food and Lowcountry cooking are getting a fresh take via farm-to-table philosophy and contemporary technique. (David Lawrence of 1300 on Fillmore cooked with Marco Pierre White in London; Govind Armstrong of Willie Jane and Post & Beam apprenticed in Wolfgang Puck’s Spago when he was a teenager.)

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