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Honoring Soul Food’s Shenandoah Valley History and Chefs

On Saturday, August 3, 2019 an event celebrating soul food and honoring African American chefs of the Shenandoah Valley will be held at Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Virginia. The event is free and open to the public with tours of the Manor House and talks throughout the day (see schedule below). The chefs will be honored after a 1:00 pm lunch with dishes provided by Chef Green, Chef Williams, Chef Geneva Jackson, and Zaxby’s in Winchester. Due to tremendous interest in this event, tickets for the meal are sold out. However, the Roaming Bistro Food Truck which features soul food and BBQ will be on the propety vending during the lunch hour.

The idea for this special event came from 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 the Shenandoah Valley. 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.

One highlight of the day will be the release of Send Judah First: The Erased Life of an Enslaved Soul by Dr. Brian Johnson and published by Hidden Shelf Publishing House. This historical novel was inspired by the life of Judah, an enslaved cook at Belle Grove from 1817 until her death in April 1836. History has all but erased her existence as only a few records tell us about her life. Dr. Johnson’s important work of historical fiction goes beyond what is recorded to portray the depth, humanity, and vulnerability of an innocent girl trapped in a world she did not choose. Through Judah, Dr. Johnson honors the millions of nameless and faceless souls forced into slavery, who would be otherwise forgotten. For Judah “did the ultimate—she survived. Not as a weakling, but resilient and determined.”

The honored chefs include:

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

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 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, Caterer, Winchester, VA


10:00am-4pm: Belle Grove Manor House Open for Touring
10:00am-1:00pm: Book Signing with Brian Johnson Author of Send Judah First: The Erased Life of an Enslaved Soul (Lower Level Manor House)
10:00-10:45am: Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life of the Enslaved Cook Judah interpretive program by Ranger Shannon Moeck, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park (Kitchen on Lower Level of Manor House)
10:45-11:00am: Break
11:00-11:45am: Presentation about the Archaeology of the Belle Grove Enslaved Quarters and What the Findings Reveal about Their Foodways by Archaeologists Matthew Greer and Scott Oliver (Lower Level of Manor House)
11:45-Noon: Break
Noon-12:45pm: "Soul Food" a presentation by Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown, Mary Baldwin University (Lower Level of Manor House)
12:45-1:00pm: Break
1:00-2:45pm: Meal and Honoring Ceremony (Upper Level of the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center in the 1918 Barn) (The meal is sold out and honoring ceremony will be standing room only) with blessings by Reverend Harold L. Brown Sr., Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Front Royal, VA, music by Annie Toles, and poetry by Brianna Madden-Olivares.
2:45-4:00pm: Book Signing with Brian Johnson Author of Send Judah First: The Erased Life of an Enslaved Soul (Museum Shop in the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center in the 1918 Barn)
2:45-3:00pm: Break
3:00-3:30pm: Open Discussion: Remembering The Valley’s Green Book Restaurants and Inn (Upper Level of the Beverley B. Shoemaker Welcome Center in the 1918 Barn)


Thank you to our sponsors: