Today's Women Crush Wednesday is renowned Chef Mashama Bailey. I have known Mashama for about 17 years now since she is one of my sister in law's BFFS. And known how much of a bomb chef and baker she is! Although born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, Bailey is a southern girl at heart attending elementary school in Savannah and spent childhood summers with her grandmother in Waynesboro. Mashama spent four years at Prune in New York City’s East Village, owned by award-winning chef and writer Gabrielle Hamilton, before taking the helm at one of the most talked-about new restaurants in the country, The Grey, in Savannah, Georgia (woot-woot!).
She is now one of the four chefs featured in season 6 of Chef's Table. The restaurant sits in a renovated Greyhound station (hence the name, clever!). In Mashama's episode of Chef's Table, the view learns that there's a colored waiting room in the back of the venue. "I was soaking in all that heritage and all that knowledge," Bailey says. "And there's a sadness that comes with that, but it's also this great sense of pride. You look at the beauty of survival — you realize how resilient your culture is."
And Bailey's craft has evolved after reading Edna Lewis's books such as In Pursuit of Flavor, per Mashama began adding more African-inspired food to The Grey menu. The Grey has earned a number of accolades, including being named in Time Magazine’s “World’s 100 Greatest Places”! And Mashama is a finalist for this year’s James Beard Award for best chef (second year in a row!). In 2018, she was the first African American woman to be nominated for best chef in the 27-year history of the awards. When interviewed recently on The Dish, Mashama said her Grandma, who taught her so much, would have been proud.
Check out our Q&A, warning you might get hungry so there is an added bonus ;)
O.C.O: How did you know you wanted to pursue cooking as a career?
M.B: I knew when people started complimenting my food. I’m close with my friends and family so when they started to really dig what I was doing I knew that I was on to something
O.C.O: The person you would most like to cook for? And Why?
M.B: Maya Angelou because I admire the way she lived her life and I would so many questions for her about love and passion.
O.C.O: Cooking is a legendarily brutal job. Is it possible to keep a balance in your life?
M.B: Yes, but my balance is very different from everyone else’s. I hang out late and wake up early to see friends and loved ones. My weekends start on a Sunday instead of a Friday.
O.C.O: Any advice for women trying to break into a male-dominated field?
M.B: You see a lot of women in culinary school but not a lot of cooking in restaurants. I think that is because of a break down in our support systems. One of the most important things that we can do for women as women is to support one another. We need to make the most scarifies when it comes to our professions no matter which industry we are in. For me support is the key to success.
O.C.O: What makes your relationship with your business partner JOHN O. MORISANO work?
M.B: Honesty and transparency
O.C.O: What was the initial feedback from your appearance in Chef's Table this season?
M.B: People loved seeing and hearing from my parents
O.C.O: Favorite part of living in Savannah?
M.B: Living right on the coast
O.C.O: What do you miss the most from NYC?
M.B: The hustle and bustle
O.C.O: Anything else you want us to know?
M.B: Cooking is hard work but if you love it you will never work a day in your life!
If you are visiting Savannah soon stop by The Grey! Chef's Table is streaming on Netflix, the series is inspiring, Mashama's was a bit of a tear jerker :) To follow her latest creations follow Mashama on Instagram.
For folks inspired to test their cooking skills, I suggest you start out with Mashama's vegan version of Stewed Black-Eyed Peas! Bon appétit!
The recipe is below: (source NYT cooking)
2 pounds dried black-eyed peas
1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and halved through the root end (keep the root attached)
4 whole cloves
1 garlic head, cut in half
10 black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
1 chile de árbol or other small dried chile
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Put the peas in a large bowl, add water to cover by 2 inches, and soak overnight.
Blacken the onion: If you have a gas stove, turn one burner on high and place the onion halves directly on the grates next to the flame and cook, turning occasionally, until the onion is charred on all sides, about 5 minutes. Otherwise, heat the broiler and broil the onion on a baking sheet a few inches from the heat, turning occasionally, until charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
When the onion is cool enough to handle, poke 2 cloves into each half, and add the onion to a large stockpot. Drain the peas, discarding the liquid, and then transfer the peas to the pot.
Place the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and chile on a 12-inch square of cheesecloth and wrap tightly, using twine to seal the packet.
Add 6 quarts water and the spice packet to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim any foam that collects on the surface, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the olive oil and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring and skimming occasionally, until the peas are fully cooked and the cooking liquid has thickened, 1 to 2 hours.
Discard the spice packet, season with the remaining 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste) and the hot sauce and serve.