How 12 Black Chefs Cooked Their Way to the Top of the Culinary Game

Diverse, ambitious and as creative outside the kitchen as they are within it, these food geniuses are changing the color of cuisine around the country.

Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson with guests at his Red Rooster restaurant in New York City for Canon’s the Big Moment Dec. 10, 2013
Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson with guests at his Red Rooster restaurant in New York City for Canon’s the Big Moment Dec. 10, 2013 Brian Ach/Getty Images

Mix one part talent, two parts dedication and a sprinkle of genius self-marketing. Black chefs and restaurateurs may not have been part of the original American recipe for culinary success, but there’s no question that they’re in the mix now.

1. Barbara “B.” Smith

Former model Barbara Smith has become an iconic restaurateur, entertaining and lifestyle expert, and author of cookbooks like B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style. Though not a trained professional chef, she has been in the restaurant business for 25 years, serving up her take on contemporary Southern cuisine.

2. Gerry “G.” Garvin

A former line cook at the Ritz Carlton-Downtown in Atlanta, Gerry Garvin went on to study in California under chef Jean Pierre Dubray. Later he opened his signature restaurant G. Garvin’s in Los Angeles, where he catered to high-profile clients like Bill Clinton and Halle Berry. He now hosts the show Road Trip With G. Garvin on the Food Network’s Cooking Channel and has authored several cookbooks.

3. Pat and Gina Neely 

This restaurateur pair got their start in the food business by operating family-run barbecue restaurants in Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee. They rose to fame after being highlighted by the Food Network in 2006 and now operate Neely’s Barbecue Parlor in New York City. They also have their own television series, Down Home With the Neelys.

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