The internet is nothing more than a collection of microcosms. And the rise of microblogging platforms that allowed for easy-to-share text posts and video links enabled users to create the internet’s version of niche, community-specific celebrity. Black creative peoples, especially, have shown just how powerful the internet—and even more specifically, social media like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and blogging platforms—can be for innovative career-building that changes the traditionalist ways that we think about food and new media.
The chefs, authors, and bloggers in the list below embody the numerous ways that food, and food culture, can be interpreted and shared beyond simple recipes. They also shed light on the intersections of the food world, Black entrepreneurs, and the internet. Each brings personal flare to the table: Some focus on making knowledge of food and technique accessible; some are hilarious; and others are uniquely inventive, while respecting the deep roots of cuisine.
Eden Hagos, the twenty-six-year-old creator of Black Foodie, has been busy: After what she describes as a bad dining experience on her birthday the year before, Hagos was left ruminating on the way that black chefs—professionally-trained and self-taught—were regarded and engaged with in the food industry. Along with her team of friends, she decided to then launch a blog, Black Foodie, with the primary mandate to celebrate food across the Black Diaspora. Posts include text and step-by-step video recipes by the team and from the Black Foodie community. And there’s merch, like their Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine-themed “Tibs & Kitfo & Awaze & Injera” tee, available for purchase.
During the warmer months, Hagos and her team also organize fun and informative food events inspired by food from a given region that tour across cities in Canada and the States, like last summer’s Caribbean-inspired Doubles vs. Patties. Most recently, Black Foodie has expanded to YouTube, adding a vlog-style video component that follows Hagos as she samples food from restaurant after restaurant.
Gladys Nyoth makes cooking a sensual experience. No, really; listening to Nyoth, a France-raised Cameroonian chef/model/actor/singer/artist/physicist, explain what, exactly, each ingredient adds to a dish gives the process of cooking the same beauty as her final creations. When she isn’t working on Mbobo and Friends, a supper club-slash-live performance night that centers each meal on one African nation’s most popular foods, she’s dominating at Tastemade, both on their YouTube channel and Snapchat Discover page. “Sometimes, the best recipes come from our personal stories,” she said, before introducing her take on the West African beignets of her childhood in a Tastemade clip. In another, she breaks down a Senegalese stew with maca root, emphasizing its aphrodisiac properties. Gladys Nyoth is a woman of innumerable talents and uninhibited expression, and her approach to revitalizing popular African foods is perfectly and precisely her.
Better known as “Laz” or “Son of a Southern Chef,” Lazarus Lynch is a force. At twenty-two, he’s already the mastermind behind two successful food-centric blogs: His first was an easy-to-follow, health-centered site that he created in high school, and the second is his current Son of a Southern Chef, which includes online instructional videos and a massive catalogue of recipes. Lynch has worked extensively with Tastemade across their platforms, along with Food Network and ABC, and is working on his first cookbook, projected for a 2018 release. His cooking techniques are rooted in America’s South, but also extend to the rest of the world, touching on Caribbean and Latin American flavors and ingredients.
What really makes Laz special—apart from his infectiously positive, charming personality—is his multifaceted approach to the culinary world. His Soul Food Talk series, for example, is a recipe-slash-conversational mini-series that highlights the work of his creative friends and peers. When he isn’t in the kitchen, Lynch is a healthy living activist, working to make cooking nutritious, ethical meals easily accessible.
If you’ve ever watched Bravo’s Top Chef, you’ve probably seen Kwame Onwuachi, the Creole-Nigerian-Jamaican twenty-seven-year-old chef who experiments with methods as often as he does ingredients. Like some of the other chefs on this list, Onwuachi is both a Tastemade regular and an entrepreneur with much more in the works. After starting a catering company at a fresh twenty years old, Onwuachi’s resume has only grown to become more and more impressive: He moved from native New York to D.C. and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, cooked in the White House kitchen on numerous occasions, and opened his first restaurant. Though his restaurant Shaw Bijou closed a few months after its grand opening, Onwuachi’s future is promising: He’s in the process of writing his first cookbook, and has most recently cooked for a Shelters to Shutters fundraising dinner, an organization that combats and raises awareness around homelessness. Keep an eye on Onwuachi for future projects.
Vegan food isn’t boring. Jenné Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soul is proof of that; her lifestyle-slash-recipe blog challenges that misconception by mixing in her Southern roots—Claiborne is from Atlanta, Georgia—along with kitchen staples from across the Black Diaspora, like Ethiopia’s teff grain, which she repurposes as oatmeal; her take on Jamaican jerk, uses jackfruit in place of a traditional meat protein. Claiborne isn’t obsessed with calories or trendy eating fads; instead, she is deeply interested in honoring the traditions of complex flavors and making food that looks, tastes, and feels good.
If you need a little boost to get started, she can help with that, too: She’s the co-founder of Buddhalicious, an online vegan meal-planning service, customized to each client’s needs. I personally love Claiborne’s insightful and beautifully-shot vlog-style what-I-ate-in-a-day videos, each of which chronicle a day’s-worth of meals and snacks, peppered with advice on how to get the most out of your food (and your life).
In December of last year, a self-identified “food critic for mandem” arose from the quietness of London’s trademark, immigrant-owned-and-frequented chicken shops. Elijah Quashie, the twenty-three-year-old Chicken Connoisseur and crep-and-chicken enthusiast became an overnight viral sensation as clips of his hilarious yet descriptive reviews of London chicken joints were reposted on Twitter by various users, all at once bemused and intrigued. In a matter of days, the black Twittersphere was buzzing about the preciseness of his item-by-item in-depth analysis. His order was largely unchanging—three wings, a chicken strip burger, fries, and the ever-elusive burger sauce—but each episode proved to be better than the last.
Watching The Pengest Munch is, of course, entertaining, but the videos also speak to a larger truth about a void in the food world—and in media in general. The Pengest Munch shows the need—and the market—for more black British media presence that isn’t watered down to an Americanized version of itself in order to gain international audiences. Quashie is undoubtedly a talented host, and I, along with the roughly two million other viewers, hope that he utilizes this momentum to create a sustainable future for himself and his team.
Ethiopian cuisine boasts a wide variety of dishes, the foundation of which lies in the flat, circular sheets of injera that are wrapped around smaller scoops of the stews scooped atop it. While Ethiopian food is often characterized by cuts of meat (that are served stewed, roasted, and raw), a massive component of the cuisine consists of spiced vegetables, from kale and collard greens to potatoes and carrots to brightly-colored beets. And so much of the food is historically vegetarian, or even vegan, just by virtue of food availability and resourcefulness.
Azla Vegan, a family-owned restaurant in Los Angeles, perfectly exemplifies veganism’s natural home Horn of Africa. The mother-daughter team, Azla and Nesanet, have developed quite a following since the restaurant opened its doors in 2013. Azla Vegan also doubles a space where arts and cultural programming thrives: They catered for Ava DuVernay and her team during their filming of “A Wrinkle In Time” and facilitated a workshop with famed filmmaker Haile Gerima. Ras G, an Ethiopian producer and DJ, collaborated with the Azla Vegan team last year to curate a beat-tape that spoke to the mash-up of the traditional Amharic music of Ethiopia and the late-90s hip-hop of the US, especially New York and California, that influenced the childhood of an entire generation of musically-inclined diasporic kids. (It’s even on cassette, for added nostalgia.)
Chef Resha is the queen of Snapchat. No one else commands the app quite like her; when she isn’t sharing snippets of her daily life, she’s casually making handmade pasta flecked with parsley, or bagels kneaded from scratch, or her own bone-simmered-and-spiced liquid stock between episodes of her favorite shows. Chef Resha is, first and foremost, a private chef. But when she’s not gone for a job, she makes the most intimidating of dishes look like child’s play in her ten-second home kitchen snaps.
She’s also the founder of Carnal Dish, a blog full of written recipes and accompanying photos; a YouTuber (with, let’s say… colorful commentary); and a soon-to-be cookbook author. Resha is incredibly honest, and that’s what makes her more relatable than most fine chefs; if she says that you can make your own three-course meal on a Tuesday evening, you owe it to yourself to at least try. What Resha leaves fans with, more than anything, is an inspiration to get in the kitchen and start cooking, from beginner’s level all the way up to, well, Resha level.
Lohi Creates, formerly known as Lohi’s Creations, is one of the first food blogs that I stumbled upon online years (and years…) ago, when looking for fellow Africans in the food industry. At the time, Lohi was posting her remixed takes on popular Nigerian dishes like suya, a roasted and heavily-spiced street meat. Even back then, Lohi was what could be considered a modern African cook: She was developing recipes that yielded drastically smaller results than the typical measurements, which had been eyeballed by mothers and aunties and grandmothers, intended to feed entire families.
Now, Lohi’s blog has been completely revamped. Its content has expanded to include home decor tips, and a weekly catch-up post on the goings on of her life. She’s delved deeper into the culinary side, too: She now shares health-conscious and fine-dining adaptations of Nigerian food, as well as posts that combine Western and Nigerian ingredients to create true dishes of the diaspora, like her plantain, egg, and bacon fritters.