We seek national recognition for three food pioneers of diversity: Jefferson Evans, Leah Chase, & Loretta Barrett Oden.
This petition had 563 supporters
We are BCA Global, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity and cultural awareness in a specific niche – the culinary and hospitality food service sector. Our mission is to engage people of color in more opportunities in industry, where diversity is needed and where cultural differences may stand in the way of career development. We believe that making strides in advancing inclusion will transcend and impact societal views of diversity.
That’s why we’re petitioning to get three pioneers of culinary history – Leah Chase, Jefferson Evans, & Loretta Barrett Oden – recognized in the nation’s capital by the White House and the Smithsonian Museum for their impact in culinary and civil history. Chase, Evans, and Oden are three pioneers of the culinary industry who defied the realities of unequal opportunity to become trailblazers and leaders in the culinary field, and we want their contributions to be recognized and celebrated.
About Leah Chase:
Leah Chase was born in Madisonville, Louisiana in 1923 to Creole parents. Her first hands-on experience in the restaurant business started with waiting tables after school in the French Quarter. It was this job where she developed her love for food and feeding others. In her teens, Chase met her future husband Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr. and married in 1945. Edgar’s family was involved in the culinary industry and owned a small corner establishment, which the couple revamped into a favorited family restaurant, Dooky Chase.
Dooky Chase was a gathering place during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and is now one of New Orlean’s most treasured restaurants and historical sites. The restaurant has been visited by many famous figures, including former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.
The chef, now 92 years old, is an author and television personality and is known widely as the 'Queen of Creole Cuisine'. Chase’s incredible background and story even inspired the Disney film The Princess and the Frog; her humble beginnings, dreams, and joyous attitude towards life are reflected in Princess Tiana’s character.
Chase has also published several cookbooks and has won numerous awards. She was honored with the 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance. In addition, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum created a permanent installation for her in 2009. She has several honorary degrees and was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in 2010. In 2011 she was awarded the American Civil Liberties Union Ben Smith Award for promoting racial equality.
About Jefferson Evans:
Jefferson Evans spent his adolescence in Georgia. He missed much of his formal education while working with his father gathering crops. At age 17 he moved to Washington D.C. and found employment as a dishwasher making $7 per week, 7 days a week. After a stint in the Army he moved to Connecticut where he hoped to attend Yale University. However, without passing the entry test into Yale, he had to find alternative means and landed a job at Yale cleaning floors. He experienced much racial prejudice while working and residing in Connecticut just as he did in his home state of Georgia. Evans eventually enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to pursue his dream of becoming a baker and was the first African American to graduate from the school in 1947. But, despite his degree, he found trouble landing a job as employers were hesitant to employ black Americans.
However, perseverance paid off and with persistence, Evans landed a chef opportunity in Maryland. His ideals of integrity proved his abilities and debased the prejudiced preconceptions of black chefs. Later in his career, Evans became a professor at Johnson & Wales and then opened a successful restaurant called One & Only, which is located in Connecticut.
In 1996 he was presented as the name bearer of the Jefferson Evans Award at the BCA Cultural Awareness Salute. The award is given to exemplary individuals in the culinary field who uphold high standards and exhibit discipline and consistency. In 2010 Johnson & Wales University and the Culinary Institute of America, in partnership with BCA, hosted a reception in Jefferson Evans’ honor celebrating diversity in culinary arts.
About Loretta Barrett Oden:
Loretta Barrett Oden was raised in Oklahoma, a state she calls a “melting pot” as it is populated by numerous Native American tribes from all parts of North America. She grew up surrounded by cooking and often accompanied her mother, grandmothers, and aunts while they prepared traditional dishes. As an adult, she realized the potential opportunity to educate others about Native American history and culture through cuisine. At first she was met with skepticism; how could she possibly teach others about such a rich and dynamic peoples through food?
Instead of being discouraged by the impressive task, she took it on with zeal. Oden believes there is no better way to educate others about such a diverse peoples - food evolves around tradition, and cuisine reflects the rich history that the Indian tribes’ cultures possess. Her cooking reflects her identity as well as the identity of many other Native American tribes. Oden’s dishes are recipes handed down through generations with her own modern flair. Her cooking style includes a dedication to healthy eating, meaning using authentic ingredients and as little gluten and sugar as possible.
She is best known in the public eye for her five-part television series, “Seasoned With Spirit: A Native Cook’s Journey,” by PBS. Her work has opened minds (and mouths) to the diversity within Native American culture, a history that is often overlooked by the average population. Her work in educating others and sharing her love for history through food has earned her numerous awards and honors, including an Emmy for her PBS series.
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