Jessica B. Harris: Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau

Jessica B. Harris

Preeminent Authority on the Culinary Culture of the African Diaspora

Jessica B. Harris is the author of eleven cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora. A culinary historian, she has lectured on African-American foodways at The Museum of Natural History in New York City, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, as well as at numerous institutions throughout the United States and abroad. Her latest book is High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America.

In her more than three decades as a journalist, Harris has written book reviews, theatre reviews, travel, feature and beauty articles too numerous to note. She has written extensively about the culture of Africa in the Americas, particularly the foodways, for publications ranging from Essence (where she was travel editor from 1977-1980) to Travel Weekly to German Vogue. She has written for most of the major food magazines including Gourmet, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Saveur, and Eating Well. She has chaired panels and given presentations at the Fancy Food Shows in both San Francisco and New York, at Chef Magazine’s Chef des Chefs, at IACP [International Association of Culinary Professionals] and AIWF [American Institute of Wine and Food] conferences too numerous to note. She also gave the keynote address for six years at The Caribbean Culinary Federation’s annual Taste of the Caribbean. She is currently a contributing editor at Saveur and American Legacy.

Harris has made numerous television appearances on shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, and B. Smith with Style. On the Food Network, she has appeared on numerous shows and served as the resident food historian of Sara Moulton’s Cooking Live. She has also served as a culinary and cultural expert on two Burt Wolfe series for PBS.

Harris has served as a consultant for national and international organizations including Kraft Foods, Pillsbury Foods, Unilever, and Almond Resorts in Barbados & St. Lucia. She has also been a member of Sterling Rice's culinary council that that serves as a think tank for major food manufacturers.

In addition to her work on the foodways of the African Diaspora, Harris is also the author of The World Beauty Book, a collection of beauty secrets from women of color around the world, the co-editor of La Vie Ailleurs, a multicultural French text, and the translator of Ton Beau Capitain, a play by Simone Schwarz-Bart, which has been performed at colleges around the country. For six and a half years, she was a restaurant reviewer for The Village Voice in New York City.

Harris has been a National Board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food and a board member of the Caribbean Culinary Federation, the New York Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier, and the Southern Foodways Alliance where she was a founding member and also served as chair of the planning and then programming committees. Currently, she is a Board member of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, an advisory board member of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, The New Orleans Afrikan American Film Festival, and the New Orleans Edible School Yard, and a life member of the College Language Association

Harris has been honored numerous times for spreading the word of African and Caribbean cuisines around the world. She was asked to become the first African American woman to address a graduating class at the Culinary Institute of America. Some of her awards include an appreciation award from Walt Disney World Epcot Center, the Heritage Award from the Black Culinarians , and the Food Hero award from Eating Well Magazine. She was given a lifetime achievement award by the Southern Foodways Alliance. She received the Toque award from Philadelphia’s the Book & the Cook, joining culinary notables such as Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. She was selected as scholar-in-residence for the International Association of Culinary Professional’s 30th international conference. She was given the Lafcadio Hearn by the John Folse Culinary Institute in Louisiana as a southern Louisiana Food Icon. Also, she was inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America.

In fall of 2007, Harris took a leave from her over 38 year tenure at Queens College to become the first scholar to hold the Ray Charles Chair in African-American material culture at Dillard University in New Orleans. The Chair has a specialty in the Food and Folklore of the African diaspora. At Dillard, she has established an Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures. In fall of 2009, she returned to her position at Queens College, but she remains a consultant to the Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture and its Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures.

A tenured professor of English at Queens College/ CUNY, Harris holds degrees from Bryn Mawr College, Queens College, The Université de Nancy, France, and a doctorate in Performance Studies from New York University where her dissertation focused on the French-speaking theatre of Senegal.

Interested in booking Jessica B. Harris to speak at your next event?

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  • Same Boat Different Stops: African American foodways in the United States and Throughout the African Diaspora
  • The Healing Table: Using the meal as a way to heal the family
  • African religious traditions in the New World
  • Teaching African American History through food


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