Top 10 Black Chefs and Restaurateurs in Atlanta

Top 10 Black Chefs and Restaurateurs in Atlanta

February is Black History month, so we felt inspired to write about the top 10 black chefs and restaurateurs in Atlanta. It was incredibly interesting to be able to look back in time and see where a large part of Atlanta’s food roots started and then look forward to where it is today.

The two oldest African American food establishments in Atlanta today, opened in 1947 just down the street from each other. They were originally located near each other due to the strict Jim Crow Laws. At the time, these laws only allowed Black owned establishments (of any kind) on two streets in the Atlanta area. Also, these brave entrepreneurs opened and operated their establishments 13 years before the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and continued to do so during and since. Thus, leading the way for all future restaurants to have the right to be owned and operated by anyone, to serve anyone and to have an address that they chose.

Today the restaurant industry is made up of all colors and genders, opening establishments in every area of Atlanta. Let’s celebrate that incredible accomplishment this month by eating at some of these great restaurants!

Mama Lucy Jackson Busy Bee Cafe 1943Originally Lucy Jackson, Currently Tracy Gates of Busy Bee Café

Busy Bee’s Cafe is the oldest female African American owned restaurant in Atlanta. Opened in 1947 by self-taught cook Lucy Jackson. Currently owned by Tracy Gates (1985), this venue is living history with its small size and photographs papering the walls. There’s a rumor that Martin Luther King Jr. was especially fond of the Ham hock’s here. The food is a journey into Atlanta’s past. Popular enough too, that there is often a line to get in but well worth the wait.

James and Robert Paschal Paschal's RestaurantOriginally James and Robert Paschal of Paschal’s Restaurant

Paschal’s is the oldest male African American owned restaurant in Atlanta. Brothers, James and Robert Paschal, opened their 30-seat luncheonette, in 1947, serving soda and cold sandwiches. Over time, it expanded to include seating for 200 people, with a coffee shop, dining room, music lounge, and hotel. The original sites were sold, and today it can be found at its new location. During the 1960s, this restaurant played an active role in the Civil Rights Movements by feeding well-known names of the time, posting bail, and openly violating segregation laws by seating black and white clientele together.

Marchet Sparks and parents of The Petite MarcheMarchet Sparks of Le Petit Marche

Established in 2008, as a traditional market complete with fresh loaves of bread, cheeses, pestos, locally made items, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Le Petit Marche is a destination for breakfast and lunch and has become a great neighborhood hangout. Owner Marchet Sparks, had a hard time of it in the beginning with the recession in 2008, however, having survived, she has become the little market that could. Her father “pop” greets customers at the door, spreading stories, while her mother helps by developing daily soups, making this little market truly feel like a neighborhood home.

Paul Williams of Sweet Auburn SeafoodPaul G. Williams of Sweet Auburn Seafood

Opened in 2014 by Paul G. Williams, this restaurant is named after Sweet Auburn Historic District, a historic African-American neighborhood in Atlanta. The neighborhood is rich in history, starting as land formerly occupied by Union troops and known as Shermantown, to the railroad construction nearby creating development in 1879, then its rise as the Black Business District, and in 1976 being recognized and working toward preserving as a National Historic Landmark.  Today people can enjoy a lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, and a live music venue.

Chef Kingsley John of Negril VillageKingsley John of Negril Village Atlanta

Chef Kingsley John is known to specialize in opening restaurants with innovative concepts, having done so in several major cities throughout the USA and Caribbean. This will be his first restaurant in Atlanta. This newly opened fine dining Caribbean eatery set in a refurbished 1907 firehouse. Expect all the classic Caribbean dishes with a Southern touch. This restaurant celebrates the vibrant, flavorful culture, so it isn’t complete without a well thought out drink menu. It’s no accident that it has set up in an old firehouse, the bold, often spicy flavors of this cuisine couldn’t have fit in better anywhere else.

Chef Scotley Innis of 5Church, one of Atlanta's top black chefsScotley Innis of 5Church Atlanta

This well-known hip locale for refined New American food and cocktails and unique artwork, recently got a new chef.  Chef Scotley Innis took over the reins less than a year ago, blending in some flavors from his Caribbean and Southern roots.  Chef Innis started his culinary career in New York; however, the last decade has him establishing a strong reputation in the Atlanta area for his flavors and talent, which are being welcomed in his new position.

Chef Jarad Hall of One Flew South, one of Atlanta's top black chefsJarad Hall of One Flew South

A frequent flyers favorite spot, this eclectic restaurant has a truly one of a kind address, located in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Concourse E. Known as the first upscale dining experience, in the world’s busiest airport. This restaurant makes a name for itself with travel-inspired food from regional Georgia producers. Chef Jarad Hall an East Point, Georgia native, worked various restaurants in Atlanta including One Flew South, with a brief break from the challenges of being in a restaurant in an airport he returned to become Executive Chef.

Chef Todd Richards of Richards Southern Fried, one of Atlanta's top black chefsTodd Richards of Richards Southern Fried

Todd Richards has been a part of many of the major Atlanta “musts” food scene. Less than two years ago, he opened Richards Southern Fried at Krog Street Market. Richards Southern Fried is essentially fried chicken gourmet style with counter service. This year we are excited to look forward to his rumored release in Spring of a semi-autobiographical cookbook titled “Soul.” As part of his varied history in the Atlanta area, Chef Richards was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award and an Iron Chef contestant. He also worked as a mentor for Ludacris to establish Chicken+Beer, an ATL airport restaurant.

Muchacho tacosJason Simpson of Muchacho

Chef Jason Simpson grew up in Southern California starting his culinary career making tacos. Starting with Muchacho’s only months ago, he’s creating a simple, fuss-free menu celebrating the tacos he grew up with. Chef Simpson’s Atlanta resume includes popular restaurants such as St Cecilia and King + Duke. Muchacho is the newest member of the Ladybird Grove owner’s group of restaurants. This is a West Coast vibe Café serving Cuban coffee drinks, beer, wine, pastries, toast, bowls, poke, and tacos located right on the beltline.

Chef Deborah VanTrece of Twisted SoulDeborah VanTrece of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours

Chef Deborah VanTrece after years of globetrotting as a flight attendant now feeds people comfort food that crosses cultural divides and languages. She is mostly known for her gourmet catering in the Atlanta area, which is what she started out doing and continues to concentrate on today. She started Edible Art Café (now closed) in an East Atlanta neighborhood which sparked to life the food scene there. This year Chef VanTrece was noted in the “Top 15 Bada** Female Chefs and Restaurateurs in the US” by Zagat.


Didn’t see one of your favorite black chefs in Atlanta on the list? Check out our Twitter and let us know which bakeries we missed. Or visit us on Facebook and leave a comment if you’d like to see more lists for different areas in the Atlanta area!

If you liked this post, check out these:

Top 50 Best Restaurants in Atlanta

Top 10 Romantic Restaurants Around Atlanta

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