Since his first restaurant job at the age of 14, Alex Askew, co-founder and president of the Black Culinary Alliance Global (BCAGlobal), has always had a passion for this industry. As a student at the CIA in Hyde Park in New York, Askew came together with other African American students who also felt that the school’s environment was not as “warm as it could be” culturally. “When we started to talk and started to communicate, we understood that these feelings were mutual and that we needed to come together so that we could have some sort of framework of support for each other and this is really the foundation of how the organization was born.”
BCAGlobal was founded in 1993 as a black alumni chapter of the CIA and later became a non-profit organization in 1998 before refocusing its efforts on diversity globally in 2014. Notable chefs who signed on as mentors include culinary greats Patrick Clark, Darryl Evans and Joe Randall.
After graduating, Askew went back to working in restaurants before giving the organization 100 of his time which outreaches to students and professionals of color, especially Blacks, Latinos and Asians. “If we could find a way to have that new majority support system that would be awesome. But also in the food service and culinary industry, we would really be able to transfer knowledge a lot better which is not something that gets done very well,” says Askew.
Each year the organization hosts a variety of events and programs for members and supporters that include the Annual Culture Salute Dinner and Global Food & Wine Experience. Membership is offered on 4 levels that range from students under 23 to seasoned professionals.
With its sights on bridging the gaps globally, Askew notes, “The best chefs travel and they understand native ingredients in native environments and the cooking methods. We have an opportunity to do that because there is a cultural connection that we need to explore and build a strong bridge because if not, some of that [connection] will get lost,” says Askew.
In terms of diversity within the industry and the visibility of chefs of color in high profile positions, being invited to high profile events as well as having a strong presence on television, Askew says, “We really need to sharpen the pencil on this.” The organization plans to build a strong pipeline in its network of leaders in the industry that will validate talent and help to bring visibility to the work being done by professionals of color.
To celebrate Black History Month, BCAGlobal is offering free memberships through February 28. Being a member is two-fold and Askew says it is about what the BCAGlobal can offer you and what you get out of it for yourself. Seasoned professional members are encouraged to mentor younger ones as they grow in their careers as well as show them how to be a great mentor in the future to someone else. In addition, it is also about the exchange of information. What knowledge is out there that needs to be shared so that members are able to be competitive in order to get to the higher levels.
This month, the BCAGlobal also launched its Living Legends of Color in American Food History campaign to honor Jefferson Evans, the first African-American to graduate from the CIA in 1947 and Leah Chase who is known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine” with her restaurant Dooky Chase which was a gathering place during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Signatures are currently being collected on Change.org to have these two culinary greats honored by the White House. To add your name, click here.
To learn more about the BCAGlobal, become a member or support and to get involved in making diversity more visible, visit www.bcaglobal.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo credit: DPTV Network