Black History Month is a time to celebrate the many people, events, and accomplishments that cultivated a culture of #BlackExcellence. While y’all pulled out your Kente cloth, quoted Frederick Douglass, and played "Lift Every Voice and Sing" on repeat, I decided to glorify my Blackness on a more epicurean level.

I had the opportunity to speak with Black chefs who are at the forefront of D.C.’s growing food scene. Black people are widely underrepresented in the culinary world, so it was refreshing to get to know these talented Black chefs and business owners. I loved hearing their views on food and culture, and I’m sure you’ll find these chefs just as inspiring as I did.

Joseph L. Paire III ⎼ Barcelona Wine Bar

gastronomy, wine, beer, coffee
Raigon Wilson

Chef Joseph is the executive chef at Barcelona Wine Bar in Cathedral Heights. The food here is absolutely magical. He draws inspiration for his dishes from his dreams, and always highlights seasonal ingredients. But what keeps people coming back is Chef Joseph’s joyful personality. He really cares about his customers, and you can taste the love in his food.

coffee, cinnamon, cream, caramel, cinnamon roll
Raigon Wilson

As a Black chef, Joseph wants people to know that we cook more than just chicken and waffles. He’s mastered Spanish flavors and creates approachably authentic tapas. But with a menu where everything looks tasty, what do you try? I had the Spicy Eggplant Caponata, Roasted Cabbage, and Churro “Cinnamon Bun” — 10/10 would recommend.

Tobias Dorzon ⎼ Victory Private Chef Co.

coffee, tea, grass
Photo courtesy of Chef Tobias

Chef Tobias, pictured above courtesy of Victory Private Chef Co., started cooking in college — as a student athlete at Jackson State University, he would have fish frys for his teammates. Now, after conquering the NFL and the restaurant business, he has his own private catering company. He’s inspired by international flavors — especially from cooking techniques he learned from his Liberian father and during his time in Brazil. His dishes put a twist on classical cuisine by adding spices and herbs that “gets you right in the back of your neck.”

Chef Tobias is kinda a big deal — His clientele includes the likes of Kevin Hart and the Washington Redskins — but he still makes time to give back to the community. He does outreach in the DC area, where he grew up, feeding the homeless and speaking to youth as a way of paying forward the blessings he’s received over the course of his career.

Rabia Kamara ⎼ Ruby Scoops

sweet, candy
Photo courtesy of Ruby Scoops

Chef Rabia, pictured above courtesy of Ruby Scoops, owns the eponymous dessert retailer, Ruby Scoops. Her food philosophy is very much rooted in being an American raised in an African household, and each flavor of Ruby Scoops’ signature ice creams has a personal connection to the Chef. Her mother brings back vanilla beans from Mauritius, and that’s what Rabia uses for the Malagasy Vanilla Bean ice cream. The Dulce de Leche flavor is inspired by days spent with her Colombian nanny, and her dad is a big coffee drinker, so the Confluence Cold Brew CoffRee ice cream is for him.

coffee, tea
Raigon Wilson

Chef Rabia believes in using real, locally sourced ingredients in all of her products. Sometimes people don’t expect a young, Black woman to be running a successful business, but Rabia’s not often underestimated. Pints of delicious Ruby Scoops ice cream can be found at Glen's Garden Market in Shaw, just a few blocks away from Howard's campus. 

Damian Brown ⎼ Takoda

Chef Damian used to try different cookbook recipes with his grandfather on the weekends, but he didn’t realize cooking was his passion until after a racial profiling incident with the police. He graduated at the top of his class in culinary school, and now Chef Damian is one of the youngest executive chefs in DC. His cooking style is “freestyle on the fly” ⎼ you can expect him to serve playful dishes that stray from tradition like PB&J barbeque sauce or a Jolly Rancher gastrique.

He was used to being the only Black chef early in his career, so he makes it a point to expose aspiring young chefs to new experiences. If you get a chance to visit him at Takoda, be sure to try the Rosemary Parmesan Tots and Grilled Pork Loin because we will go back for sure.

James Martin ⎼ Pamplona

pizza, beer, coffee, tea
Raigon Wilson

Chef James is the executive chef at one of the DMV’s newest, and most promising restaurants. He was introduced into the culinary world as a teenager, working at Checkers. He quickly moved up the line, having cooked in Michelin star restaurants before landing at Pamplona. He and his wife (a Howard alum) were inspired by their trip to Spain when creating the menu for the restaurant. The similarities he found between Southern and Spanish ingredients, techniques, and flavors made him quickly feel at home cooking Spanish foods. And while I've never been to Spain, I'm sure this is the closest you'll get to a genuine Spanish meal in the city. 

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It’s only been a month or so since Pamplona opened, but Chef James and his team have big goals. For example, they're perfecting their paella recipe in hopes of making it the best in the county. He also hopes to draw a diverse crowd to the restaurant so people of all colors and backgrounds can be exposed to the goodness of Spanish cuisine.

These culinary geniuses are the perfect representation of where hard work and raw talent can get you. I can't wait to see what they do next ⎼ maybe one of them will become D.C.'s next big celebrity chef. In the meantime, support their restaurants/businesses and grub on, my friends.