Honoring Shenandoah Valley's Soul Food History and Chefs
On Saturday, August 3, 2019 Belle Grove hosted a Celebration of Soul Food and African American Chefs of the Valley. The idea for this special event was proposed by the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project based in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The non-profit group’s mission is to learn, share, and illuminate African American history of our region They partnered with Belle Grove, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, the Josephine School Community Museum, and the Winchester NAACP, and other local groups to plan the day and identify chefs to honor.
The day included tours of the Manor House and presentations by Ranger Shannon Moeck (on left in photo below), archaeologists Matthew Greer and Scott Oliver, and Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown of Mary Baldwin College.
The sold out lunch and honoring ceremony in the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center included catering from Chef Ed Green, Chef Kenneth Williams, and Chef Geneva Jackson. The honored chefs were:
· Mr. Ira Iverson Becks Sr., Mr. Ira Iverson Becks Jr., and Mrs. Viola E. Becks, Chefs at Ingleside Hotel, Staunton, VA
· Mr. Jesse Curry, Chef and Owner of Rustic Tavern, Winchester, VA
· Mrs. Catherine W. Dunn, Chef at Belle Meade Hotel and Lloyd’s Steak House, Harrisonburg, VA
· Mr. Jerome Grant, Executive Chef, Sweet Home Café, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC
· Mrs. Ellen Williams Gant and Mrs. Lucille Kent Williams, Chefs at the Wayside Inn, Middletown, VA
· Mr. Edwin Green, Chef and Owner, Po' Green's Southern Food & BBQ, Front Royal. VA (on right in photo)
· Mrs. Geneva Jackson, Caterer, Berryville, VA
· Mrs. Vivienne Jackson, Chef and Owner, Ruth's Tea Room, Winchester, VA
· The Newman Family, Chefs at Wayside Inn, Middletown, VA
· Mr. Henry Stewart, Chef at Kavanaugh Hotel, Harrisonburg, VA
· Mrs. Sue Tokes, Chef and Owner, Tokes Inn,Opequon, VA
· Mr. William Tutt, Mrs. Edith Tutt, Mrs. Ella Twyman Tutt, Chefs, Luray, VA and Managers of Lewis Mountain Lodge in the Shenandoah National Park
· Mrs. Savilla Toliver Vickers and Mrs. Edna Toliver Rhodes, Chefs and Caterers in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, VA
· Mr. Kenneth Williams, Big Bill’s Kitchen Catering, Winchester, VA (in center in photo)
The Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project will sponsor an intern to compile information on these chefs and collect oral histories for a print and digital publication.
The day also marked the release of Send Judah First: The Erased Life of an Enslaved Soul by Dr. Brian C. Johnson and published by Hidden Shelf Publishing House with original cover art by Megan Whitfield.
This historical fiction novel was inspired when Dr. Johnson attended Ranger Shannon Moeck’s program about Judah, an enslaved cook at Belle Grove. Judah was owned by Isaac Hite Jr. from 1817 until her death in April 1836. The book is available in the Museum Shop and on Amazon.
Belle Grove thanks the National Park Service and Crescent Cities Charities for their financial support of this special day.