Soul Summit 2015


A Conversation About Race, Identity, Power and Food

June 19 – 21, 2015

On Juneteenth weekend 2015, scholars, researchers, students, journalists, authors, restaurateurs, farmers, chefs, activists and anyone interested in exploring issues of race, cultural identity and power imbalance through the lens of food gathered in Austin, Texas, to eat, drink, and ponder food [in]justice.


The meeting was inspired by an MSNBC segment with Melissa Harris-Perry, which turned attention from outrage and protests over events in Ferguson, Mo., to a discussion about food, race and identity. With Jim Crow era stereotypes and ignored culinary history as the backdrop, Harris-Perry’s panel presented an academic dialogue to viewers, raising the question: What we can learn about who we are when we shake off the shame about how or what we eat?

It was a momentous event!

The symposium began on Emancipation Day (June 19) with a  reception in the elegant foyer of the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, featuring nibbles by Leslie Moore’s Word of Mouth Catering and wines by Truvee and Dotson-Cervantes Winery. We spent the next day and a half eating and drinking together on the campus of Austin’s historically black college, Huston-Tillotson University, while discussing the complex intersection of African American foodways traditions and how they have been used to define culture. We hoped  that this first-ever gathering of industry role models would motivate the next generation toward careers in food. We had no idea the weekend would spur so many mentoring relationships, uplifting friendships and career opportunities.

Celebrity chef Carla Hall got the whole thing started with an inspiring  video welcome. Well-known and respected African American food scholars, including Jessica B. Harris, Adrian Miller and Michael Twitty challenged our thinking about the foods that comprise the traditional African American core diet, the ways those foods (and the people who prepared them) have been characterized by society, and the impact of those representations on our communities. Powerful, sometimes emotional, talks by food writers, authors, performance artists, and entrepreneurs, such as 10-year-old Mikaila Ulmer, who earned $60,000 on ABC’s Shark Tank,  showed us the ways food can shape economic opportunities and wellness for African Americans in the future.

Juneteenth image

We took a walking culinary tour of Austin’s gentrified African American Cultural Heritage District and celebrated the lifetime achievements of a Texas culinary icon whose legacy lives on in her great grandson’s restaurant, Lucille’s Houston. In between, industry greats from around the country, including Bryant Terry, Todd Richards, Kevin Mitchell, BJ Dennis and Tiffanie Barriere showed us a few things about authentic African American cuisine as we feasted on dishes with vegan, coastal, French and global soul.

Information about Soul Summit 2017  will be posted here soon.


Scott Barton, New York University Food Studies Doctoral Candidate, filmmaker and chef

Myron Beasely, Associate Professor, African American Studies, Bates College

Lisa Byrd, Executive Director, African American Cultural Heritage District, Austin

Jennifer Cumberbatch, founder and president, J.R. Cumberbatch Productions

Lolis Eric Elie, writer, filmmaker, and story editor at AMC’s Hell on Wheels and HBO’s Treme. He also is author of two cookbooks, Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans and Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country

Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s The Chew

Dr. Jessica B. Harris, award-winning scholar, radio host, and author of twelve critically acclaimed cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora, including her most recent, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, which was the International Association for Culinary Professionals 2012 prize winner for culinary history

Adrian Miller, The Soul Food Scholar, author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

Therese Nelson, founder Black Culinary History

Carla Nickerson, actress and director of the City of Austin’s Office of Cultural Affairs

Donna Pierce, Syndicated Columnist “Black America Cooks” and a 2015 Visiting Harvard Nieman Fellow

Anne Pope, audio engineer, sound editor, music producer and media educator involved with award-winning motion pictures such as Born Into Brothels, Valley of Saints, and Junebug. She is an urban environmentalist and founder of Sustainable Flatbush

Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder and consultant, NativSol Kitchen

Helen Roberts, sales and marketing, Kikkoman USA

Elle Simone, founder SheChef and freelancer at Food Network

Ellen Sweets, James Beard Award winner and two-time nominee for food writing. Author of Stirring it Up with Molly Ivins: A Memoir with Recipes

Nicole Taylor, Heritage Radio host, Hot Grease

Toni Tipton-Martin, award-winning food journalist and author of two forthcoming books, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks (2015) and The Joy of African American Cooking (2016)

Michael Twitty, independent scholar, culinary historian, historical interpreter, author of the forthcoming book, The Cooking Gene

Mikaila Ulmer, founder and owner of BeeSweet Lemonade and winner on ABC’s Shark Tank

Michele Y. Washington, design writer and educator

Caroline Randall Williams, poet and author of Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family

Hoover Alexander, owner, Hoover’s Cooking, Austin

Tiffanie Barriere, mixologist, Atlanta’s One Flew South

Benjamin Dennis, private chef

Alphonse Dotson, Certenberg Vineyards and Wines of Dotson-Cervantes

Fete Events, Austin Community College of Continuing Education Hospitality and Event Planning

Adrian Lipscombe, Knottynice Bakery, Austin

Kevin Mitchell, chef instructor at Culinary Institute of Charleston

Leslie Moore, Word of Mouth Catering, Austin

Ahri Burton and Angie Smith, Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts

Todd Richards, executive chef, The Shed at Glenwood

Bryant Terry, chef, educator, activist, and author of four books including Afro-Vegan, named one of the best books of 2014 by

Brandon Tipton, graphic and web design, local bartender -The Market

Chris Williams, graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Austin and chef/owner Lucille’s, Houston

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