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Edna Lewis

Edna Lewis was a great dame of Southern style of cooking. She was an American-African Chef and popularly known for her tall and giant personality. Being a culinary genius, she held the top position in the world of cooking especially for Southern cuisine contributions.

Born in a family of freed slaves, Edna Lewis always wanted to be a Chef and she fulfilled her dream by specializing in the fol- cooking of south. Besides being a gourmand, Chef Edna Lewis was also a cheerful and nice lady in her personal life and she touched the hearts of her admirers with her beauty and gracefulness.

Professional Life of Chef Edna Lewis

Born on April 13th in 1916, Edna Lewis belongs to Freetown, Virginia. The culinary expedition of this great chef began in her hometown itself. In Freetown, she learned basic cooking from her aunt. Edna’s love for fresh and seasonal southern ingredients had started in Freetown where these things were normal in daily life.

At the age of 16, after the death of her father, Edna Lewis shifted to Washington and finally settled in New York. In the initial years, she worked in laundry and in newspapers etc, but eventually ventured into food world. Her expert knowledge about southern cooking made her a legend in the local areas of New York. In 1948, Chef Edna Lewis opened her own café in the association of an antique dealer, John Nicholson. Café Nicholson was a huge success in Manhattan.

With simple recipes and self-cooking, Edna Lewis attracted many renowned names to her Café, which included Tennessee Williams, Gloria Vanderbilt and many more. Edna’s connection with Café Nicholson remained till 1954.

Apart from her food business, this great Chef had also penned down many cook books and even took cookery classes for young aspiring Chefs. Lewis left ‘Gage & Tollner’, in Brooklyn 1992 and that was her last job.

After serving the culinary world for several years, Edna Lewis took her last breath on 13th February, 2006 in her house in Georgia. This great Chef will always be remembered for her great contribution to cooking.

Notable Achievements of Chef Edna Lewis

  • In 1948, Edna Lewis opened her first restaurant and became the most successful black Female American-African Chef.
  • Chef Edna Lewis and a bunch a friends set up ‘Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food’. Edna had always been a great supporter of classic southern cooking.

Cook Books:

  • The Edna Lewis Cook book – This book was published in 1989.
  • The Taste of country cooking (1976) – This cook book mainly focuses on southern cooking and it was the first attempt by an American-African lady to give a new dimension to country cooking.
  • Other famous cook books include ‘In Pursuit of Flavor’ and ‘The Gift of Southern Cooking’.

Awards Won by Chef Edna Lewis:

  • International Assoc. of Culinary Professionals awarded Edna Lewis in 1990 for Lifetime achievement in cookery.
  • Living Legend award – This award was presented to Edna Lewis by James Beard Society in 1995. This was the first time the society had presented such award.
  • Barbara Tropp President's Award – In 2002, Edna won this award from Women Chef and Restaurateur Society.

Many other such awards and accolades are credited to Edna Lewis