Edna Lewis

Women with Moxxie - Edna Lewis

Edna Lewis (April 13, 1916-February 13, 2006)

Edna Lewis was born in Freetown, Virginia, the granddaughter of an emancipated slave, and is a heroine of American culinary history who worked to ensure that ensure that traditional Southern dishes and preparations would live forever. 

At 16 she moved away from Freetown and headed north to Washington D.C., then on to New York City. In New York, after struggling thru a series of seamstress jobs, Ms Lewis, a self-taught chef entertained and became famous for her dinner parties.  In 1948, she started working as the head chef at the newly opened Café Nicholson – which she co-owned with Johnny Nicholson on the East Side.  Ms Lewis became a local legend, the Café was frequented by celebrities and the elite crowd in post-war Manhattan.  Female chefs, especially black female chefs, were a rarity and she became revered for her simple, delicious Southern meals which featured fresh and locally grown foods.

In 1972 Edna Lewis authored The Edna Lewis Cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking in 1976, and In Pursuit of Flavor in 1988.  She won multiple awards and was featured in numerous national publications including Food and Wine, House & Garden, Essence, New York Times, New York Magazine.  In 1996, she received an honorary Ph.D. in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University (Norfork), College of Culinary Arts and was named head chef at the historic Gage & Tollner, until she retired in 1995.

Dr. Edna Lewis died in 2006 at the age of 89. 

Edna Lewis was a Woman with Moxxie.