Black History Month celebrates African-American achievement, pride and success. And its significance certainly is not lost on some of Chicago’s top culinary professionals, who are grateful to those who came before them. They share their thoughts—as well as some recipes for success:
Wanda Cole, manager/sommelier at Dining Room at Kendall College
Why Black History Month is significant for her: During the month of February, we are reminded of all of the contributions of African Americans made to American history, culture and society. We are also reminded of all of the struggles, complications, road blocks and hardships that they faced in making history what it is today. When I take these into account, it gives me an enormous sense of pride; that this great culture was able to accomplish and contribute so much in spite of the hardships they faced. It also serves as a motivation to me: as I am able to make my own contributions....WITHOUT the obstacles. Without the roadblocks and hardships, we are able to better focus on developing our talents, thus continuing the uplifting of our culture, the contributions to society as a whole, and self actualization.
Her perfect pairing: I feel that oftentimes dessert wine does not get the attention and exposure that it deserves. It is a great crowd pleaser; often appealing to many palates. And, of course, it pairs wonderfully with rich, savory desserts and cheeses. My ideal pairing is sweet potato pie with NV Campbell's Muscat dessert wine (Rutherglen, Australia). I first showcased this pairing at a hospitality industry pot luck dinner a few years back. It was a huge hit. The sweet potato pie was made by yours truly.
Brian Duncan, wine director/partner at BIN 36
Why Black History Month is significant for him: Black History Month is a brilliant opportunity for us to share the monumental accomplishments of so many past and present with our children. It is a celebration of true role models who have proved there are no limitations when you live life with purpose.
His perfect pairing: The wine I've chosen is produced by my friend and mentor and winemaker Mac McDonald of Mac McDonald Vision Cellars in Windsor, Calif. He is African American. Blood Orange Olive Oil Risotto with Wild Mushrooms complements a 2008 Vision Cellars Pinot Noir from Las Alturas Vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands, Calif.
Brian Jupiter, corporate executive chef/partner at Frontier
Why Black History Month is significant for him: As an African-American male, I feel that we have a daily responsibility to honor those African Americans, both past and present, who paved the way for us to exist in this society the way we do today. During Black History Month, all other races and cultures are educated and reminded about these same struggles and accomplishments that are embedded in African American history. Black History Month is a time to celebrate my past and honor the present.
Brian's recipe: Powdered Doughnut Beignets with Apple Rum Sauce
Lynn House, head mixologist, Blackbird
Why Black History Month is significant for her: Black history is American history. We are a nation of many creeds, colors and cultures. As the granddaughter of not one but two Tuskeegee Airmen, I am particularly proud of my African-American heritage and all that my family has done to contribute to this country. It is a time for reflection, a time for sadness, a time for joy and a time for celebration. This month I celebrate those that came before me, their trials, tribulations and success, and I make sure that those who come after carry on the torch.
Lynn's recipe: On The Boulevard
Trevor Hoyte, executive chef at IPO Restaurant
Why Black History Month is significant for him: Black History Month gives me a chance to look back and reflect on how far we have come, and to give thanks to others that have played a major part in society and fought for their lives and rights, also to be educated in other cultures and appreciate other races.
Trevor's recipe: Braised Beef Short Ribs
Erick Williams, executive chef at MK
Why Black History Month is significant for him: Forty-nine years after the Civil Rights Act, issues of race still make the headlines and Black History Month continues to have relevance. Black History Month is a time to highlight and reflect upon the struggles and successes of African Americans when there are those that would rather forget. In his West India Emancipation speech in 1857, Frederick Douglass said: “Where there is no struggle, there is no progress.” In this particular talk, he carefully gave explanations of how life’s challenges can be productive and lead to meaningful accomplishments. Black History Month turns its focus on a blurred history of unaccredited patents and discoveries and celebrates our people’s creativity and achievements. It also shines a light on the men and women of all races, those of the Civil Rights Movement, heroes whose work continues to pave the way for freedom of all Americans.
Erick's recipe: Sweet Potato Soup