Where Are the Black Female Chefs? This Creative Wants You To Know.
Over the course of time a pattern has become evident — Black women continuously being marginalized in various spaces. The culinary industry is no exception where “only certain voices are centered in the culinary conversation,” says Adá Supper Club founder Nkem Oghedo. Noticing an area where she could show up and make change, Nkem decided to do something that would shift the narrative surrounding elite culinary experience.
As the founder of Adá Supper Club, Nkem uses her platform to celebrate Black and female expression through food. Adá Supper Club creates space for Black women to tell their own stories through a culinary lens. We chatted with Nkem to learn more about her experiences navigating traditionally white, homogeneous spaces as a Black woman and how quarantine further inspired her vision for Adá Supper Club.
Give us a little overview of what you do and why you started Adá Supper Club.
Adá Supper Club curates dining experiences that center Black and female perspectives. Our mission is to create spaces for Black chefs and female chefs to tell their own stories, on their own terms. As a child, I actually wanted to be a chef. I grew up watching hours of Food Network and helping my parents in the kitchen. I ended up studying engineering and going to business school instead, but have always been intrigued by the food and restaurant industry. But learning more about the industry, I was disappointed to see the same story we see in so many other industries — the erasure of Black and female contributions to the elite food scene. So, I started Adá Supper Club to celebrate all that brilliance that is all too often overlooked.
How do you identify and why is your identity important to you?
I identify as a Nigerian-American, Igbo-American, New Yorker, Queens girl, Leo/Leo/Cancer, Christian, sister and daughter! It’s so important for us to define ourselves clearly and in our own words, because otherwise, we might end up believing we are who they say we are (read: unworthy, inferior, less than, etc.)
Talk us through the process of coming up with the dinner series “A Night In” and bringing it to life. Why did you decide to pivot in that direction during the pandemic ?
I think Miss Rona made the decision for me! As the lockdown put everything on pause, I was forced to reflect and get specific about what the real purpose of this supper club was — what was I actually trying to do and what is really necessary to do that thing? It became clear that the point is really just to share intentional, delicious and special stories through food. Defining the scope in that way helped me think expansively about how Adá could show up. A NIGHT IN — a series of dinners cooked by a rotating roster of chefs that puts the fine-dining experience into boxes and brings it to your home — was birthed by thinking about how to bring the in-person supper experience to folks’ homes.
How large of a role do you think race and gender plays in a person’s advancement/lack of advancement in the culinary industry? Do you feel there is a glass ceiling that exists in the industry for Black and female chefs?
Speaking about fine dining specifically, I think we can look at the winners of James Beard awards and Michelin stars to answer that question. But many folks have illustrious careers as private chefs and caterers — often to escape the politics of fine dining.
What’s next for you and Adá Supper Club?
With Adá, we will continue to help tell delicious and intentional food stories with our monthly series, A NIGHT IN. We are also expanding into private virtual food experiences. Book us at www.adasupper.club/private-events!
How are you staying hopeful and inspired at this time?
Prayer, journaling, cooking, hanging with family and friends and watching a lot of BravoTV!
“As the lockdown put everything on pause, I was forced to reflect and get specific about what the real purpose of this supper club was – what was I actually trying to do and what is really necessary to do that thing? It became clear that the point is really just to share intentional, delicious and special stories through food.”