I’m catching up on missed episodes of Top Chef and in the Charleston season, they have an Edna Lewis elimination challenge. I’ve heard her name before but was not aware of the heavy influence that she has done for southern cooking. Apparently it wasn’t taken all that seriously in the past but Lewis changed that.

Edna Lewis was the first black culinary celebrity. She wrote down her recipes with poetic fluidity and (according to Wikipedia) she “championed the use of fresh, in season ingredients and characterized Southern food as fried chicken (pan, not deep-fried), pork, and fresh vegetables – most especially greens. She wrote and co-wrote four books which covered Southern cooking and life in a small community of freed slaves and their descendants.”

Check out her page because Lewis had an adventurous life: she campaigned for FDR, worked as a seamstress and copied Christian Dior dresses to sale to the affluent and had a bit of infamy doing that. She opened up a restaurant in NY where all the big names flocked to eat.

Her book, The Taste of Country Cooking, as a smash success, with the NYT saying it “may well be the most entertaining regional cookbook in America.”