BLACK VOICES

Black Chefs Dig Into Restaurant Industry's Lack Of Diversity, Call Paula Deen Demeaning To Southern Culture (VIDEOS)

07/11/2013 05:20 pm ET | Updated Jul 12, 2013

Despite being in the midst of a food renaissance, the restaurant industry's diversity efforts don't appear to be keeping up.

As the Chicago Tribune noted last year, black chefs are dramatically underrepresented on today's restaurant scene, comprising just 9 percent of those in the industry compared to white chefs, who account for 60 percent.

In a candid discussion with HuffPost Live Wednesday, host Nancy Redd talked with one chef who describes the difficulties he has had breaking into the industry.

"It's difficult to get in the door in a lot of upscale places," sous chef Karl Adams told Redd. "A lot of time, they'll see my resume and when I step in I'll get the eye, like they can't match up the resume to a black person."

And while opportunities aren't handed out to African Americans at the same rate they are to chefs of other ethnicities, they're also often taken away, Adams adds. "We don't get the promotion, we don't get the experience or we're stuck in one station for one year, two years," he said.

In one instance, Adams said that a potential employer diminishing his seafood restaurant experience to preparing catfish.

"I really don't think that people give southern food enough credit for the technique it takes in order to produce that kind of cuisine," Todd Richards, Chef at The Shed at Glenwood, chimed in. "They make it seem very menial or like you just have this way of producing this food without any credence to technique."

Richards adds that many people erroneously associate African Americans with southern cuisine, particularly its reputation for being over-processed and high in fat.

"We don't have, necessarily, a defined cuisine ... so people don't know who to approach us, how to place us or what our value is," he says.

Restaurants are immensely segregated: by location, by job, by placement on the floor, by wage, and by clientele. Servers, bartenders, and hosts are white, while runners, bussers, those in the back of the house, and those who make the lowest wages are overwhelming people of color ... Workers of color experience racism and microaggressions; they are more likely to be questioned as to their qualifications (pg. 127). It is a world where irrespective of diversity, in terms of both staff and food choices, racism remains a constant on every menu.

Later in the segment, Richards weighed in on the Paula Deen controversy and what he calls her disrespectful approach to southern ideologies and foodways.

Watch Richards' commentary in the videos above and below.

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS