Meet the seven Black chefs worldwide whose fine dining have earned restaurants a Michelin Star

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 13, 2024 8:27 PM EDT
Adejoké Bakare is the first Black woman in the UK to earn a Michelin Star. Photo credit: Chishuru

Ayo Edebiri‘s portrayal of Sydney Adamu, a talented young chef in the comedy-drama series The Bear has earned the actress critical acclaim. The show reflects the experiences of millions of people who have worked in the highly intensive hospitality service. As the discourse on fine dining dominates popular culture, attention has been brought to the number of Michelin-star restaurants that have Black executive chefs.

The Michelin Star System is one of the most prestigious awards in the culinary world and can tremendously elevate the standing of a dining spot. It was developed by the Michelin Tire Company as a way to encourage motorists to travel longer distances to visit restaurants and drive demand for the company’s tires. They then began awarding a star to dining establishments in 1926. While stars are awarded to restaurants, the achievement is often attributed to the corresponding head chefs.

Although the first Michelin Guide was published over a century ago, less than two percent of Michelin-star restaurants are run by Black chefs. This gap can be attributed to the narrow description of fine dining, the disparity in access to training and resources and a lack of transparency in the awarding process. Black chefs consequently miss out on the opportunities that come with earning the prestigious award. The Michelin Star System has made some efforts to become more diverse and inclusive, with the number of Black chefs rising in recent years.

In 2023, only six Michelin starred restaurants worldwide had head Black chefs.

BlackStars News has highlighted seven Michelin Star chefs who are redefining fine dining.

1. Gerald Sombright
Sombright began his culinary career at 19, working prep and washing dishes. He couldn’t distinguish between the refined meals that the establishment served and was intrigued to learn more. His ambition led him to hone his technique and knowledge of the culinary arts in prominent venues such as Wit and Wisdom in Baltimore and the 4 Seasons Resort in Orlando, Florida. In 2022, he opened Knife & Spoon, a steak and seafood restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando. The restaurant earned a Michelin star only a few months later, making Sombright the first Black man to achieve the prestigious award.

2. Charlie Mitchell
Raised in Detroit, Mitchell credits cooking with his grandmother as the inspiration for his passion for cooking and food. He spent a few months in culinary school but soon realized that he preferred the on-the-job learning experience. He developed his skills for years working as a sous chef and later executive sous chef at fine dining establishments in New York, like Eleven Madison Park. Mitchell is the executive chef and co-owner of Clover Hill, a contemporary American restaurant in Brooklyn. He also won Michelin’s 2022 New York Young Chef Award.

3. Michael Caines
A few months after starting as Head Chef at Gidleigh Park, Caines lost his right arm in a car accident in 1994. He was back in the kitchen working full-time within only four weeks. He went on to gain and maintain two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years. In 2017, he transformed Georgian Lympstone Manor into a stunning country house hotel with three dining rooms and its own vineyard. Caines and his team were awarded their first Michelin Star within six months. He received an honor from the Queen of the UK for his services to the hospitality industry and has cooked for the UK Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.

4. Mory Sacko
Sacko combined his name and that of Yasuke, the first Black Samurai in Japan to name his restaurant MoSuke. He opened the establishment in 2020 and it was awarded its first Michelin star a few months later. He opened another restaurant in 2022, MoSugo, that serves comfort food at relatively cheaper prices. Sacko’s culinary techniques are a successful blend of his Malian and Senegalese roots and Japanese influences. A far cry from fine dining, the celebrity chef grew up in a family of nine children in social housing east of Paris. He began training at hotel school at 14 and worked as a chef in several of Paris’s finest hotel restaurants.

“Food is the reflection of a society. French society is evolving. There are lots of young people like me who are French but who have different origins and are proud of it. Palates are ready, mentalities are ready, to welcome a cuisine like mine in France,” Socko said about the changing culinary trajectory in France.

5. Marcel Ravin
Considered one of the best chefs of his generation, Ravin was born in Martinique and moved to France at the age of 20. He began his career in Alsace before working in a series of Michelin-starred restaurants. Since 2005, he has led the kitchen teams at the prestigious Monte-Carlo Bay in Monaco where he manages four restaurants – Blue Bay, L’Orange Verte, Las Brisas and Mada One. His innovative cuisine has won two Michelin stars in the Blue Bay restaurant.

6. Georgiana Viou
Viou is one of a few self-taught Michelin chefs. She moved from Benin to France in 1999 to study languages at the Sorbonne with the hope of becoming an interpreter. She worked at a communications agency but was forced to alter course and pursue her secondary passion, cooking. Viou learned to cook from her mother who had a small restaurant in Benin. Her maturity helped her ascend up the chef’s ladder in the male-dominated culinary world. She joined Rouge, a restaurant in the southwestern French city of Nimes at its inception in  2021 and had her Michelin Star debut two years later. Viou has written several books about Benin’s cooking.

7. Adejoké Bakare
Adejoké Bakare recently became the first black woman to be awarded a Michelin star in the UK. She is the founder and head chef at Chishuru, which specialises in modern West African cuisine. It began as a pop-up in 2020 after she won a competition in Brixton Village. The restaurant then moved across various sites in London before finding a permanent address in Fitzrovia last year. Bakare’s love for food and cooking was ignited when she began collecting cookbooks at the age of 11. She was however encouraged to pursue more conventional career paths, going on to study biological sciences at university.

“We’re [at] the forefront of west African food and there’s still much more to do so we focus on that … and just build and grow that way. In many ways being an independent restaurateur and chef is incredibly liberating. We make our own rules, we answer to no one, we do our own thing. As a black female chef I’m not totally sure I could have done it any other way,” Bakare said about being a pioneer in the food industry.