Did you know that Black people have made contributions to the food industry dating back to the 1800s?
As we celebrate Black History Month, Keys’ wants to recognize the accomplishments of Black scientists, chefs, and innovators whose work in various disciplines has had a lasting impact on the global food system!
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver has been coined the Black American food pioneer and was a scientist, educator, conservationist, artist, and humanitarian, born into slavery in 1864. While he is best known for his work with peanuts, Carver had many other accomplishments you may not know about including introducing the concept of crop rotation with soil-building, protein-rich crops, conducting ground-breaking research on plant biology, and pioneering a mobile classroom to bring valuable lessons to farmers throughout Macon County, Alabama.
Born free in 1806 on a New Orleans plantation, Norbert Rillieux is considered one of the earliest chemical engineers. Rillieux published a series of papers on steam engines and steam power, worked on a solution to address evaporating moisture from cane juice while lowering heat to produce a whiter, more refined, sugar crystal that resulted in the production of better-quality sugar at lower cost. This led to his invention of the multiple effect evaporator, which increased sugar production, reduced production costs, and protected lives by ending the older dangerous methods of sugar production.
While working as a chef at Saratoga Springs’ Moon Lake Lodge resort, Crum accidentally invented potato chips. When a customer sent their French-fried potatoes back for being too thick and salty, Crum sliced a new batch ultra-thin and fried them until they were hard and crunchy which led to the first iteration of potato chips. Crum later opened a restaurant of his own—Crum’s House—which featured a basket of potato chips on every table and popularized the salty snack.
Lee began his career in foodservice as a boy, first working in a bakery and later as a waiter, cook, and hotel manager. In 1895, he received a patent for a device that mechanically tore, crumbled, and ground old bread to form breadcrumbs. In 1902, he invented and patented an automatic bread making machine that could uniformly knead dough, allowing for a faster, cheaper, and more sanitary way of making bread.