The Iconoclast Dinner Experience Celebrates the Best Black Chefs in the Business

Paul Carmichael, Kwame Onwuachi, Ebow Dadzie, Joseph “J.J.” Johnson, Nyesha Arrington and Preston Clark
Courtesy of Lezli Levene Harvell

On June 4, black chefs Joseph "J.J." Johnson, Nyesha Arrington, Paul Carmichael, Preston Clark, Ebow Dadzie and Kwame Onwuachi, along with prolific sommelier Luvo Ntezo and Bacardi's Colin Asare-Appiah, brought together their incredible palate-pleasing talents to honor the late legendary chef Patrick Clark with the Iconoclast Dinner Experience at the historic James Beard House in New York City.

Chef Clark was a leader in the culinary world. He pioneered the New American cuisine movement and brought European sensibility and techniques of nouvelle cuisine to the United States, thus bringing us to the forefront of the global culinary community.


Food enthusiast and founder of the Dental Kidz Foundation Dr. Lezli Levene Harvell organized the delicious event to honor trailblazers of color in food, wine and spirits. Harvell says that the James Beard House is like the Carnegie Hall of food, and being invited to "perform" there is one of the finest honors a chef could have.

"I hand-select the honorees based on a number of things. First I try to maintain regional and global diversity,” says Harvell, noting that this year’s honorees hail from Cape Town, South Africa, and Sydney, as well as Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C.


This year’s wine honoree, Luvo Ntezo, was born into apartheid and is now the head sommelier at the One & Only Cape Town, which has the largest wine library in Africa, says Harvell.

Spirits honoree Colin Asare-Appiah, who is originally from London and who now travels around the world as a senior ambassador for Bacardi, has been recognized by his peers as a tastemaker with multiple nominations in their benchmark industry event, Tales of the Cocktail.


Host chef Joseph “J.J.” Johnson, executive chef of The Cecil and Minton’s in Harlem, is a past James Beard Foundation Rising Star Award semifinalist. He chronicles the pathway of the African Diaspora through his food, says Harvell.

Other amazing honorees include Nyesha Arrington, executive chef of Leona in Venice, Calif., who's been Eater's Chef of the Year; Paul Carmichael, executive chef of Momofuku Seibo in Sydney, who is a James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef nominee; and Ebow Dadzie, who was named one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America by Dessert Professionals magazine. And then there's Patrick Clark's son, Preston Clark, who was a James Beard Foundation Rising Star Award semifinalist and is chef de cuisine of Lure Fishbar in New York City.


And the one to watch? Kwame Onuwachi. He's this year's Iconoclast NextGen. The 26-year-old is in the process of opening the Shaw Bijou in Washington, D.C., where he plans to serve an ambitious 15- to 17-course tasting menu.

Harvell's event may seem extravagant and filled with fancy flavors, but the theme was something far simpler: Black chefs matter.


"In American history, black chefs have had a significant impact on the food world,” say Johnson. “They are the chefs that are behind the scenes. No matter where you travel, there will always be an African-American chef cooking at the highest level."

Joseph says it's thanks to legendary chefs like Clark that black chefs are changing the food game on a much higher level.


"I am inspired by Patrick Clark because he was a pioneer and paved the way for other African-American chefs," Johnson says. "It is because of him African-American chefs can be considered masters of various genres of food."

Harvell notes that this event is about more than just the food. "I want people to know that there are food, wine and spirits professionals of color around the world doing amazing things that you likely haven’t heard of, and this event honors them. This event is the only event of its kind in the United States.”


Foodies, mark your calendars: The next Iconoclast Dinner Experience is slated for June 10, 2017.

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