BLACK CHEFS IN HISTORY: B. Smith
During America’s celebration of Black History Month, I’d like to reflect a bit, giving honor and credit to some of the pioneers of the culinary game; their consummate skill and influence are both undeniable and largely unknown. Last week, we looked at Chef Patrick Clark, a well-respected culinary genius who mastered and successfully fused French & Soul flavors; this week, let’s honor B. Smith, but I first want to take a quick peek at the BACKBONE of Black & White kitchens and households for centuries: Black women.
Black women have been holding it DOWN in the kitchen FOREVER! Before and after being enslaved in this country, women of African descent have thanklessly and tirelessly toiled in many kitchens, ensuring that their families were properly nourished. Felt sick? Hot water cornbread and collards quickly solved that. Having a bad day? Caramel cake to the rescue! I still hold close several fond memories from my childhood of my Big Ma, mother & aunts seamlessly preparing and orchestrating grandiose meals, time and time again. It was so much to my enjoyment that as a toddler, I was nicknamed “Fatty Patty.”(Don’t you even dare try to call me that now.)
I’d bet the house that most of you share similar memories. Now that we have that on the record, let’s take a quick peek at an African American woman who is a source of great inspiration to me, Chef B. Smith:
Chef B. Smith – This multitalented woman is an accomplished Chef/Restaurateur, Model, Actor (Off-Broadway debut in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” and more), Lifestyle Expert & Retailer. In 1986, she opened up the original restaurant in New York, a place that focuses on American cuisine with a Southern twist and expanded that to three, though the Washington D.C. location has since shut its doors.
She has gone on to expand her brand to include bedding and bath products, DVDs, books, food products and much more. Her products can be found at Bed, Bath & Beyond (first African American woman to have her own line sold there) as well as several local and national grocery stores. As if that isn’t enough: She can be currently heard on Sirius XM radio with her husband doing their “The B. Smith and ‘Thank You Dan’ Show.”
As a teenager, I’d see her DVD cooking instructional videos on the shelves at Walgreens and Jewels of predominantly African American neighborhoods quite often; subconsciously, it helped me see that it was possible for me to be able to cook and achieve the same level of success. Next to Billy Blanks workout tapes, she was the only other person of color whom I noticed pushing instructional videos of any sort.
Chef B. Smith, thank you for inspirational figure in the culinary world (and beyond). You’ve blazed a trail of greatness for other African American chefs to follow!
B. Smith’s Skillet Apple Pie
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Golden Delicious apples, plus 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin and tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
2/3 cup half and half
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
To prepare filling; melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, add apple slices and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Mix sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg salt and cornstarch in a bowl and gently stir mixture into apples. Continue to cook until apples are soft but not mushy, about 5 minutes.
To prepare topping; mix together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and vanilla, and quickly blend together with spatula.
To assemble the pie; drop heaping tablespoons of biscuit mixture on top of apples, covering most of the center of the mixture. Sprinkle top with remaining sugar and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is golden. Remove pie from oven and let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Chef Cordell passionately pursues educating others how to build healthy cooking and eating habits for life via cooking classes, grocery store tours, kitchen makeovers, public speaking, corporate wellness training, restaurant consulting, etc. Through his nonprofit work, he looks to offer community based solutions for education of, and access to, healthier food solutions.