These local chefs are sharing their favorite ‘for the culture’ dishes

Six Charlotte-based chefs connect food and culture in honor of Black History Month.
Chef-Joya

In honor of Black History Month, we asked several Charlotte-based chefs to share their favorite dish that represents Black culture.

Here’s what they said.

Chef Adjoa “Joya” Courtney

Personal chef, Cooking with Joya

Greens are a staple in Black food culture, so this recipe is perfect for Black History Month. 

My “Mama’s Black & White Greens” is one of my favorite recipes because it was inspired by my mom, who also is a vegan chef.

My mom shared her tip of adding cabbage to collard greens with my aunt over 20 years ago, and the rest is history.

Chef-Joya-black-white-greens
Mama’s Black & White Greens, from Chef Joya’s cookbook, “Cooking with Joya: It’s Soul Mahmazing Vol. 1.” Photo: Jonathan Cooper

They are called black-and-white greens because of the darker collards mixed with the lighter-colored cabbage. The tomato relish that I add on top of my greens was inspired by my cousin. Every time I make this dish, it reminds me of the rich culture of my family, my own Black history.


Chef Daryl Cooper

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Co-owner, Jimmy Pearls

Chef-Daryl-Cooper
Chef Daryl Cooper of Jimmy Pearls. Photo courtesy of Daryl Cooper

When I was growing up in Virginia, I loved eating oysters — raw, steamed, fried, smoked or stewed. However, I didn’t eat oysters often because they were expensive and didn’t fill me up like a “meat and three” meal.

This gave me the perception of oysters being a luxury food that only the elite can consume. It wasn’t until I became deeply immersed in African
American foodways that I learned it was an African American named Thomas Downing who played a major role in giving the oyster its haute reputation.

Downing was a free man from Chincoteague Island, Virginia, who moved to New York City to start what became the most popular oyster house on the East coast in the 1800s. He was serving affluent Whites while running a stopping point for the Underground Railroad beneath his restaurant.

After learning this, I’ve realized that oysters have an important history in African American food culture. I’ve become more motivated to learn about oysters and now utilize them more in my cooking.


Chef Greg Williams

Co-owner, What the Fries

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Greg Williams (left) with What the Fries co-owner, Jamie Barnes. Photo: Peter Taylor Photography
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Fried pork chops is a dish I’ve eaten it all my life and never gets old.

I grew up on meals that were going to stretch out for a couple days. Pork has always been cheap and is a staple for us in the Black community. Not to mention, it tastes great.

My mom would cook them every other week, baked as well, but there’s nothing like a fried pork chop. Each time, I ate them like I’ve never eaten them before. It is still my favorite to this day, and I know it will always be.


Chef Marketa Appiah

Sous chef, Grand Bohemian Hotel

I was born in Florence, South Carolina, but I was raised in Massachusetts . My mother made sure she cooked a grand supper every Sunday after church. I never understood why she cooked so much food, until I spent more summers with my family in South Carolina.

Oxtail, collard greens and macaroni and cheese are dishes that bring up so many food memories for me. When I eat them, I am reminded of the strength of my culture. The toughness of the oxtail represents the resilience of Black culture.

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Braised oxtail meal. Chef Marketa Appiah

While cooking with my aunts, they explained to me that grand meals are cooked on Sundays to celebrate our blessings and our loved ones lost. I remember the food being so flavorful yet simple. So much passion went into the food.

Recipe: Braised Oxtail 

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of oxtail
  • 2 teaspoons of salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered 
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter 
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme 
  • 1 envelope of Lipton onion soup 
  • 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar 
  • 1 cup of low-sodium vegetable stock 

Instructions:

Crock Pot Method 

  • Rinse the oxtail under running cool water. Soak it in a bowl with red wine vinegar for 20 minutes.
  • Set your crock pot to HIGH setting. Add oxtail.
  • Layer remaining ingredients on top.
  • Place lid on top. Cook undisturbed for six hours.
  • Remove lid. Stir. Add one cup of stock, if needed.
  • Set the crock pot to LOW. Allow to cook for five additional hours.

Dutch Oven Method  

  • Rinse the oxtail under running cool water. Soak it in a bowl with red wine vinegar for 20 minutes.
  • Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven on high heat.
  • Season oxtail in a bowl with salt and black pepper 
  • Sear the oxtail in Dutch oven in batches, until brown on both sides — be careful not to overcrowd the pan. 
  • Return all of the oxtail to the pan. Add onions, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Allow to sweat for 10 minutes.
  • Sprinkle onion soup mix and add vegetable stock.
  • Allow to come to a simmer, then add butter.
  • Place lid on top. Cook on low setting, undisturbed for 9.5 hours. 

Chef Anthony Denning

Co-owner, Another!? Food Truck

When it comes to recipes deeply rooted in Black culture, I would have to go with braised greens. It is amazing that at one time greens were considered an unwanted food that enslaved Black men and women turned into a Southern staple and one of my personal favorites.

Chef-Anthony-Denning
Photo courtesy of Chef Anthony Denning

Chef Kevin “Kev” Winston

Personal chef, Yes Chef Food Concierge

Bread pudding goes back to 13th century England, when it was known as “poor man’s pudding.”

Bread pudding has become a staple in Black homes. It allows you to create a great dessert for cheap using day-old or older bread and a simple custard.

I use this dish to create an upscale, sweet and dense dessert served with a rich bourbon cream. Bread pudding represents the struggle but can also be used as a delicate dessert. 

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Photo courtesy of Chef Kev

Recipe: Southern-style peach bread pudding with lemon bourbon sauce

Ingredients for peach bread pudding

  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 5 cup of heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of peach preserves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 12 slices of sourdough bread
  • 2 cups of fresh diced peaches
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Instructions: (Makes 8 servings)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs, egg yolks, peach preserves and vanilla extract. Set aside. 
  • In another large mixing bowl, tear the bread into bite sized pieces. Toss the bread with the peaches, brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Pour into the buttered baking dish. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread mixture. Stir gently to coat all of the bread. Cover with foil.
  • Place the baking dish into a larger pan and fill halfway up the sides of the baking dish with boiling water.
  • Place the pan on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

Ingredients for lemon bourbon sauce

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of bourbon
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon zest

Instructions: (Makes 1 ¼ cup)

  • Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until pale yellow.
  • Add the bourbon, lemon juice and lemon zest and beat well.
  • Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler and place it over cold water.
  • Cook, stirring constantly, over medium high heat until the water in the bottom pot reaches the boiling point and the mixture is thick and creamy.
  • Remove from the heat. Serve hot or cold. Whisk before serving.

Katrina Louis
Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a news tip? Email her at katrinalouis@qcitymetro.com.

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