Delish Food Director Rob Seixas leads a panel at Hearst’s Celebrate Black Style Summit

This October, Hearst Magazines held their second annual Black Style Summit. The three-day virtual event showcased leading voices in fashion, beauty, business, design and entertainment to “highlight and celebrate the many contributions of black innovators across disciplines,” said Debbie Chiricella, president of Hearst Magazines.

For the “Food Beyond Borders” panel hosted by Delish, our food director Rob Seixas moderated a spirited discussion in the test kitchen with chefs JJ Johnson, Auzerais Bellamy, and Jessica Craig.

Director JJ Johnson

Hearst will celebrate the Black Style Summit

Chef JJ Johnson is an award-winning restaurateur, author, and television personality who has traveled to nearly every corner of the world. He drew on his extensive culinary knowledge to launch FIELDTRIP, a fast-casual restaurant concept featuring rice bowls inspired from around the world.

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For him, sharing the cuisines of different cultures is a unique form of empowerment. “Diaspora works in many ways, and there are many unique stories and flavor profiles that haven’t been told,” he said. “This gives a voice to people who have never had a voice around food.”

auzerais bellamy

Chef Osiris Bellamy

Hearst Celebrated Black Style Summit

For Chef Osiris Bellamy, cooking has always been in her blood. She grew up in a family of Bay Area restaurateurs, and her grandmother at one point ran nine different locations. After spending a decade doing fine dining, Bellamy decided to forge her own path and open Blondery, an online bakery that specializes in artisan blondes.

Despite her impressive resume, she has continued to overcome structural barriers to the industry appreciating her work. “There is a look of shock on people’s faces sometimes when they see it [what I make]. They have a lot of questions: Do you have a partner? Bellamy said, “Who did your branding?” It’s like they didn’t expect it to be this good or look like this. And that’s all I have.”

Jessica Craig

Chef Jessica Craig

Hearst Celebrated Black Style Summit

Pastry chef Jessica Craig has traversed a similar career path, spending years in the fine dining world. I’ve worked in kitchens [someone] He will ask, “Where is the pastry chef?” I tell them I am here, and then, as if not believing her, they will turn to another and ask her again.

Now, as the executive pastry chef at popular Brooklyn restaurant Lilia, Craig is trying to fix the high-pressure kitchen environment for other up-and-coming chefs. “I make sure my chefs are well taken care of,” she said. “It’s a place of care that I never get as a pastry chef when I come in.” “I want them to enjoy coming to work.”

For the three chefs, it has taken time to embrace a food that transcends the European cuisine traditionally associated with high-end restaurants. “When I got into the industry, I thought I couldn’t serve Jamaican food because no one would take me seriously,” said Craig. “I remember turning away from my culture because I thought I wasn’t going to go far, or do much, unless I focused on European food.”

“People don’t realize that fine dining, or food in general, has no color,” Bellamy said. “We all as humans enjoy really good food, especially if it’s beautifully executed and presented.”

Johnson said he had to actively shed preconceived notions about black ways of food. “As a black chef, we have been brainwashed not to cook soul food,” he said. “I’ve been drawn to it lately… It’s a part of me that I haven’t really explored. Food will break down those barriers and make everything relatable.”

In a presentation with Delish Food Editor Brooke Caison, Johnson demonstrated how truly all food can be connected. Together, they cooked Johnson’s recipe for West African peanut sauce—which he believes should be considered the “mother sauce,” a term traditionally reserved for classic French sauces that serve as the basis for many recipes.

While Johnson’s recipe is inspired by the version made in Mali, there are many types of peanut sauce in West Africa. Similar in flavor and texture to the peanut sauces of Southeast Asia, it is one of the most versatile sauces you can use in your cooking; Serve it on noodles, in lettuce wraps, or as a salad dressing.

You can see the Food Beyond Borders panel and cooking show, along with many other virtual events, at hearstblackculturesummit.com.

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