Michael W. Twitty

TED Fellow, Michael W. Twitty, covers race, culture, food, faith, history with an extra dose of truth.

Speaking Options

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From a Haunted Plate: Becoming an 18th and 19th Century Black Chef

Michael takes you on journey through the practical arts of food sourcing and cookery through the lens of a colonial or antebellum era African American cook. He will take the audience from lecture to discussion on the ways that traditional West and Central African food traditions met and melded with each other, those of indigenous peoples and Western Europe and then morphed over decades into centuries. Michael discusses the history of the cuisine as an extension of the foodways of Africa in early America with emphasis on the cooking techniques, cultural transformations, and flavor principles unique to this translation of Western cuisine by early African American chefs.

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The Cooking Gene: Tracing My African American Story Through Food

For African American culinary historian Michael W. Twitty there was a giant hole in the story of American cooking as big as the one in the story of most African American families. Putting the microscope on himself, Michael decided to fully trace out his family history through the story of Southern and American food. Using genetic research, historic interpretation, nature study, heirloom gardening and interviews with contemporary voices in food, his journey led him back to his family’s origins in West and Central Africa and a front ring seat in the debate over race and food in American life.

Michael Twitty and Dr. Henry Louis Gates

Culinary Justice: Defining a Theory of Gastronomic Sovereignty

Food justice, social justice, environmental justice, food sovereignty—and entire language has developed around how we want to see and live in a better world where fairness and right action prevail. In an extension of these concepts, Michael has begun to promote his notion of culinary justice—the idea that historically oppressed peoples have a right to authority, sovereignty, prosperity and acknowledgement in their contribution to national and global foodways. Join Michael for a lively discussion to explore the way the preparation of food unites and divides out narratives and how we can use it for the good.

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Kosher/Soul? : Black-Jewish Identity Cooking

Being African American and Jewish is for many a combination that many can’t wrap their heads around. However, for thousands of Jews of color; having heritage, faith and family in both Diasporas—African and Jewish—and their many intersections means creating material, social and ideational lives that interweave identities and histories. For Michael, this includes food and the ways Black and Jews have mediated otherness and oppression using what they eat as well as the global stories Diasporic foodways have to offer. Join Michael on an exploration and a taste of what he calls, “Koshersoul.”

Selected Media

Michael Speaks: London (England)

Michael Speaks (John Hopkins Univ)

Genetic Reveal (Stagville Historic Plantation, N.C., USA)

Testimonials

“He blew us away! We never have students stay behind to talk with a speaker like they did with Michael. Thanks for everything!” – Philip Ackerman – Leist, Faculty and Director of the GMC Farm & Food Project , Green Mountain College (VT)

“Michael was an absolute joy to have on our campus. The crowd was very engaged I had many people approach me after the event talking about how much they learned. I even had someone state that this was the bet event they had seen on our campus! Michael was an absolute joy to work with and very gracious throughout the process. I learned a lot from him and his truth was more than I could have asked for in a speaker.” – Anneliese Wilson, Speaker Event Coordinator, Cultural Events Board, University of Colorado (Boulder)

“Michael’s dynamism drew together people from many backgrounds, and his energy to engage with everyone he met was boundless.  He was able to take on difficult issues such as race, the legacy of slavery, and continuing discrimination of our own time in ways that encourage thoughtful participation from the audience. Michael’s confidence and perseverance in pursuing his mission of historical justice for the contributions of African Americans is truly inspirational.” – Maria Kennedy, Folks Arts Coordinator, The ARTS Council of the Finger Lakes (representing Corning, NY engagements including Corning Community College and Corning, Inc.)

“Michael’s event was an absolute hit. All the students and community members had a fantastic time.” – Lazarus Fellow at Yale’s Sustainable Food Program (CT)

“Michael’s visit to Shippensburg was outstanding! One faculty member said it was one of the best, most memorable visits for a speaker that he could remember. Students reported that they really enjoyed working with him in the kitchen and that is was a truly unique experience. His talk was also well attended and my students got a great deal out of it. We were still talking about it in class almost a week later. His morning session turned out to be quite well attended also, and he had a great discussion with students.  His overall theme really resonated with the students – reflecting upon the nature of food, our alientation from what we eat in a fast-food society, and the importance of recognizing and taking pride in foodways and traditions.  Our new Director of Social Equity was hoping that speakers brought to campus by the Black Heritage Committee would become more than just a one night event, but might inspire action that would have a lasting impact. I think Michael’s visit did that.”  – Dr. John Bloom, Associate Professor, Dept of History and Philosophy, Shippensburg University (PA)

About Michael

Michael W. Twitty is a recognized culinary historian and independent scholar focusing on historic African American food and folk culture and culinary traditions of historic Africa and her Diaspora. He is a living history interpreter and historic chef, one of the few recognized international experts of his craft—the re-construction of early Southern cuisine as prepared by enslaved African American cooks for tables high and low—from heirloom seeds and heritage breed animals to fish, game, and foraged plant foods to historic cooking methods to the table. He is webmaster of www.Afroculinaria.com, the first website/blog devoted to the preservation of historic African American foods and foodways. He has conducted over two hundred classes and workshops, written curricula and educational programs, giving lectures and performed cooking demonstrations for over 100 groups including the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Carnegie-Mellon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Library of Congress, the Association for the Study of Food and Society and Oxford University’s Symposium on Food and Cookery. He has been profiled in the Washington Post and Washington Prost Magazine, the New York Times, Grist, PittsburghPost-Gazette, Cuisine Noir, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Jet Magazine, Ebony.com and other periodicals. He has also been interviewed multiple times on NPR including the acclaimed food program The Splendid Table and Poppy Tooker’s Louisiana Eats and has been interviewed by the BBC. In 2013, he made several major appearances on television connected to his work including Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, PBS’ Time Team America, and Many Rivers to Cross with Dr. Henry Louis Gates. Michael’s new book, The Cooking Gene , will be published in Fall 2017 by HarperCollins. Michael was one of 20 people selected globally as a 2016 TED Fellow. 

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