Why do Atlanta's black chefs have trouble becoming top chefs?

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

When the nation's pre-eminent culinary organization, the James Beard Foundation, announced its 2016 chef and restaurant awards semifinalists last month , only two black chefs saw their names on a coveted list of more than 425 nominees: Edouardo Jordan of Salare in Seattle and pastry chef Dolester Miles of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham.

Atlanta restaurants and chefs netted a total of 14 James Beard award nominations this year, yet no local black chefs made the cut. It’s not because there aren’t many black chefs in Atlanta.

Black restaurateur and former chef Marco Shaw said he’s seen “more black cooks in Atlanta than anywhere I’ve lived.” Shaw is president and COO of Kevin Gillespie’s Red Beard Restaurants (including Gunshow and Revival), and among the cities where he has lived are New York, New Orleans, Santa Fe, N.M., and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

But even as cities such as Atlanta — long known for being a haven of opportunity for African Americans — are experiencing rocketing growth in the food and dining industry, significant success and recognition continues to elude black chefs.

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