We all love a good plate of food, and whether you're a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or still deciding, you can't deny the heavenly feeling of sitting down to eat a well-prepared meal. As black women, we have always been innovators in the kitchen, whether it's making leftovers seem like they're brand new, creating fabulous meals out of bare-bones groceries, turning cooking savvy into successful businesses, or changing the food game altogether. Here are 9 black female chefs who have done just that, using their culinary prowess to win in business and in the kitchen:
A military vet, she's got more than 15 years under her belt serving as a professional chef, and she's hosted several hit shows including Food Network's Cooking for Real, and The Kitchen. She's also a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and creator of Infadium, a fun snack holder sold at Party City and on Amazon. Her dishes combine everyday food with the diverse tastes and flavors of her international travels.
We all know her as the Grammy-winning, gloriously curly-haired singer who had Neptunes-produced hits, but Kelis has done a total career change as a fab farmer and chef. She hosted Netflix's Cooked with Cannabis, launched her own line of food products called Bounty & Full, wrote a best-selling cookbook, and has expanded the brand to include Gold Mine boxes that literally sell out in minutes after being announced via her IG page. Kelis favors unique ingredients that reflect her Puerto Rican and African-American background.
Kardea Brown is the host of Food Network's Delicious Miss Brown, where she shares southern cuisine from her South Carolina kitchen. Of Gullah/Geechee descent, Brown infuses the culture of African-Americans of the coastal region like beef and okra stew, Gullah red rice, and "Charleston-style" shrimp and grits.
Nyesha Arrington brings her Afro-Korean heritage to the dishes she creates and was introduced to foods like bulgogi, octopus, and kimchi at an early age, helping to diversify her palate. She's appeared on Top Chef, opened two restaurants, LA: Leone and Native, and has done successful international pop-ups. She now runs her own full-service chef consulting and catering service.
A James Beard award-winning chef, Mashama Bailey brings Bronx swag and grit to the South with her dishes that incorporate history and culture. She's the executive chef and partner at The Grey, a restaurant in downtown Savannah, GA that is built inside a 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus terminal. The dishes include traditional Sunday dinner classics with a refined twist that might inspire you to take your own fried chicken meal up a notch.
Nina Compton is another alumnus of Top Chef, and her roots go back to the shores of Saint Lucia. Compton, also a James Beard award-winner, served as a chef in some of the best restaurants in New York and Miami before opening her own restaurant in New Orleans called Compere Lapin, offering flavors of the Caribbean, Italy and France on the menu. She then went on to co-found Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans. She also serves as the Culinary Ambassador of Saint Lucia.
Kia Damon came on the scene as a young self-taught phenom who made headlines at 24 when she became head chef at the chic New York eatery Lalito. She's also dominated Chopped this year and became the first culinary director at Cherry Bombe magazine. She also hosts an IG-based show called "On the Line" where she highlights leaders in the culinary space as well as culture's link to cuisine, activism, identity, and lifestyle issues. On top of that, Kia has launched Auxilio Space, a New York-based community platform that provides services, support, and jobs for queer, trans, Black and indigenous communities, in collaboration with nightlife and hospitality leaders Zacarías González and Mohammed Fayaz.
Born and raised in Detroit with Congolese roots, Kiki Louya is the founder of two award-winning food concepts called Folk, and The Farmer's Hand that supported fair treatment of food and farm workers. She also founded Nest Egg Detroit, America's first all women-owned hospitality group.
As lead chef at Chicago's Kikko, Mariya Russell made history in 2019 as the first black female chef to head a Michelin-starred kitchen. The restaurant is special in that it's an omakase, a Japanese concept where the sushi chef decides what you will eat and provides multiple courses of delectable goodies, making for a unique dining experience. She's known for using ingredients such as shiokoji, a fermented liquid used in sake, and creative dishes like pickled green almonds, house-made tofu, and dashi.
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Over the last few years, the upkeep of my nails has become a top priority. I’ve explored different lengths, tested out a range of designs and colors, and have gone from gel-x to acrylic and, currently, Russian manicures. As assured as I am about my signature nail look, one thing that I will always be open to is a new trend that sparks inner confidence — and the “black nail theory” is the latest to do just that.
If you’ve been on TikTok lately, you may have noticed that manicure lovers are putting new concepts surrounding their nails to the test. Last fall, the “red nail theory” took the internet by storm with promises to evoke male attention, compliments, and even a date or two on a subconscious level. And now, just a year later, a deeper and more mystic hue is being spotlighted for its alluring appeal.
#blacknails💅 #boldyblooming #blackspiritualists
What Is “Black Nail Theory”?
The concept of “black nail theory” is centered on the idea that applying black nail polish can significantly influence an individual's inner confidence and overall lure. Black nails are thought to possess a distinctive quality that communicates a sensual and captivating energy, bringing forth boldness and mystery. On a psychological level, black is said to be symbolic of “power, elegance, and sophistication.”
Personally, red has never quite been my color; so when I saw the black nail theory making its rounds, I immediately knew it could be an internet trend that I could get behind and try for myself.
Testing Out The Theory
Deciding on the approach that I would take with my black nails came fairly easy. I’m a French tip girl to my core, so if I was going to commit to such a bold color like black, I’d have to take it gradually, and not commit to a fully blacked-out nail look.
Leaving the nail salon with my new set, I instantly felt myself channel my inner baddie. The black French tip complimented my complexion perfectly, and I was even able to test the theory out while on a date later that evening.
Throughout the night, I was complimented by both my date and the waitress on my nails, and I felt an inward motivation to share just enough about myself while leaving more to be discovered.
The following week, my friend and I went out to a party with the sole purpose of being cute and having fun, only to find a handful of men stopping to get my name and make conversation. One even went as far as to take my hand and examine nails that were adorned with gold rings.
On a more personal level, my time with black nails has been my handy reminder to trust my intuition and enter every room with confidence. Having my nails done naturally gives me an extra boost of confidence, but with the added touch of having them painted black, I’ve seen myself tap into the sultry and captivating "dark feminine" energy that I desire to embody.
Would I Try This Again?
If all it took was a change in my nail color in order to attract love and confidence into myself, I would probably be married by now. But testing out black nail theory has been insightful to explore interpersonally.
How I present myself to the world and what I feel like I deserve all matters, and that doesn’t just start or end when my nails are freshly done.
Confidence is a full-package deal that comes wrapped in self-care, self-concept, and self-esteem. I get my nails done because that’s what makes me feel good, and whatever attention that draws in, I know that it’s a part of what I’m putting out into the world.
If I’m feeling fiery, I’ll test out a red design. If I’m in a girly mood, I’ll test out pink or ask for painted bows. And if I’m going for something more standout, I’ll let my nail tech take an idea and freestyle from there. All in all, nails are just another form of self-expression and should be a chance to showcase your inner world on the outside.
So yes, if red nails are the flashy antidote to drawing in attention, then black nails are the look to channel a “quiet” confidence that keeps them wanting more.
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