Celebrating African American food manufacturers for Black History Month | Food and Cooking

Celebrating African American food manufacturers for Black History Month | Food and Cooking

Kris Christian, a former Wall Street analyst, liked her coffee bold but not the bitter after taste. And so she experimented, grinding her coffee beans with an assortment of fruits, chocolate and nuts. Bingo! Emboldened with the taste of her brew, she created Chicago French Press. It’s one of the brands Target will be adding to their shelves as part of their $2 billion commitment to expand their Black brand offerings by 2025.

Christian offers four grinds: Keurig, French Press, Espresso, and Auto Drip and a myriad of flavors starting with her Chicago French Press Original Blend with organic coffee grown in the high altitudes of Peru and roasted in small batches in Chicago. She has fun flavors as well such as Maple Pecan, Snickerdoodle, Vanilla Blossom, Chocolate Blueberry and Black Tuxe – a premium, organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe 100% Arabica coffee.

Christian also hand mixes premium teas in small batches coming up with such mixes as Raspberry Jasmine Green Tea, Maple Pecan and Blood Orange. Recently she introduced a Home Brew Kit. Her coffees and teas are available online and 5% of the proceeds from each bag sold directly supports select 501(c)3 organizations locally and globally.

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“I’m not sure if there are more Black food entrepreneurs now as there have always been a great amount of super talented food creators,” said Christian. “I do believe there are more food entrepreneurs creating successful and thriving businesses and those businesses are becoming more visible. More Black food entrepreneurs are being found through social media and technology such as Black Restaurant Week on UberEats, more are being supported by the community through the #BuyBlack movement and more opportunities are being created in the marketplace and through big box retailers.”

Chef Selassie Atadika crafts truffles with delicately etched designs using the spices and herbs of Ghana, her native country.

“My Afua truffle features the buttery, nutty and caramel notes of prekese, one of my favorite West African spices, infused in a milk chocolate ganache, enveloped in dark chocolate,” said Atadika about her line of Midunu Chocolates.

Atadika not only studied at the Culinary Institute of America but also holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as well as a bachelor’s degree in geography modified with environmental studies from Dartmouth College. Midunu, which means “let us eat” in Ewe, a language spoken in Togo and southeastern Ghana, is a call to embrace all that the table offers—great food, conviviality and connection.

Now back in Ghana after working for the United Nations in such countries as Kosovo, Atadika takes advantage of the cacao beans that thrive in her country’s climate and terroir. Ghana, interestingly, is the second largest producer of cocoa beans in the world though most of the harvest is exported. Atadika, one of the chefs behind the New African Cuisine movement, would like to change that and also bring about a greater understanding of the foods and cookery of her country. Her chocolates are available in stores and online.

Maya’s Cookies is the country’s #1 Black-owned gourmet vegan cookie company and the only one to have former NBA star John Salley as an advisor. Maya Madison partners with other Black entrepreneurs to create her cookies which are egg and dairy-free and uses such ingredients as organic raw cane sugar and organic cocoa butter. She sources from such Black food makers as Kanda Chocolate whose cacao beans are from Ghana and gets her Cabernet Sauvignon from a Black-owned winery to use for macerating marionberries that’s then mixed with white chocolate and sugar cookie dough in creating her First Lady Cookies in homage to Michelle Obama.

Black history is the basis for Uncle Nearest, a cookie with whiskey candied pecans, caramel and chocolate chips in a brown sugar dough with an added splash of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. Uncle Nearest, an enslaved black man living in Tennessee some 200 years ago, is now recognized as the first Black master distiller on record and the mentor of Jack Daniels when he was young. Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is now being distilled by his great-great-granddaughter and was named as the 2020 Wine Enthusiast’s Spirit Brand of the Year. As of last year, it was the fastest-growing independent premium American whiskey brand in U.S. history, with 100% growth each quarter to date.

The son of a Swiss chocolatier, Hernan Lauber uses the skills his father taught him and his mother’s Filipino heritage to create Oodaalolly. The name means joy in Filipino, the national language of the Philippines, and his chocolates are sure to bring happiness as they’re made with the rich and flavorful Philippine Trinitario Cacao Beans as well as locally sourced ingredients. That includes partnering with AAPI Kasama Rum distiller Alexandra Dorda who grew up working in her parents Polish vodka distillery. Kasama rum is made from Noble sugarcane grown in the Philippines where Dorda’s distillery is located and then aged in bourbon oak barrels. Oodaalolly infuses the rum in several of his single sourced beans-to-bars including a white chocolate bar dotted with pineapple chunks and a milk chocolate bar made with coconut milk. He uses unrefined cane sugar and such island ingredients as calamansi, a citrus fruit with an orange and lime flavor.

When he was young, Walter “Lefty” Nash Sr., honed his skills as a pit master by barbecuing hogs with his father in the large pit they’d dug in their backyard. His wife was equally talented as a cook, always working on new recipes. The two decided to open Lefty’s Barbecue in 1989, starting off cooking in a small trailer in Hughesville, Maryland. Word of mouth brought people from as far away as Baltimore and Washington D.C. and soon they opened a larger place in Waldorf, Maryland. Now with their children involved in the business, the family not only offers a full menu with chicken, ribs, brisket, shrimp, and fish, but also sell Lefty’s Barbecue Sauces as well as Lefty’s fish and chicken mixes and Lefty’s all-purpose seasoning blend.

Harlem-based Chef Samantha Davis-Allonce has created a line of small-batch hot sauces that pairs intriguing combinations of peppers and veggies. The Hot N Saucy line includes Sweet Potato N Habanero, which pairs well with chicken, shrimp and fish; Collards N Ghost, featuring collard greens and one of the hottest peppers around; Beet and Fresno, a mild sauce with a sweet beet taste; Black Garlic N Peri Peri, which is  black garlic, ginger and West African Peri Peri peppers; and Garlic N Pepperoncini, another mild sauce sweetened with honey and hints of citrus.

Caribbrew is a Black-owned business that partners with small-scale coffee growers in Haiti to produce premium Arabica beans. The coffee comes in dark, medium and light roasts as well as Haitian Spice Coffee and Haitian Hot Chocolate. They also sell coffee beauty products such as their Coconut Rum- Moisturizing Haitian Coffee Scrub.

The following is a recipe from Oodaalolly.

Oodaalolly’s Chocolate Butter

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Bar Oodaalolly 60% Cacao Dark Milk Chocolate, melted

½ tablespoon cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS: Beat butter, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and a pinch salt with an electric mixer until smooth, about 1 minute.

Serve at room temperature. Use as a spread for crackers or bread.

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