Michael Twitty, two-time James Beard Award–winning writer and author of The Cooking Gene, will teach a class on MasterClass on tracing your roots through food. Bringing years of research and his personal philosophy on the culinary habits and practices of African American culture, Twitty will teach members how food can help them discover their unique cultural and familial history.
“Michael is a culinary historian who has revolutionized the way we understand what we eat,” said David Rogier, founder and CEO of MasterClass. “He roots his class in his personal journey, teaching members how to see food as the lens and vehicle for understanding who we are, where we come from and how to preserve a family legacy.”
In his class, Twitty will teach members how to discover, track and document their family food histories through storytelling, genealogy and writing. By uncovering the unspoken truths of African American food culture and its influence throughout history, Twitty shares that in order to pass down our food legacies, we must confront the good and bad histories of our ancestors. Using his book The Cooking Gene as an example, he will teach members why it is critical to preserve and promote family food history. Twitty will break down the meaning of “foodways,” which are inherited cultural and social practices surrounding food, and share the history of foodways during the transatlantic slave trade and the antebellum South. Twitty will also explore the role cultural appropriation and environmental racism have in perpetuating an unhealthy diet that denies African Americans credit for their own culinary creations. Twitty will provide members with a step-by-step guide on how to interview family members, break down his process for writing and food blogging with purpose and share how to confront their DNA story. He will also discuss authentic soul food and teach members how to cook traditional recipes such as black-eyed pea fritters and okra, corn and tomato “stewp.” Members will walk away with a new appreciation of preserving food experiences past and present to not only uncover their food story but deepen their relationship with their family and culture.
“As someone with many intersections of identities—Black, gay, Jewish, Southern, male—all of those things put together means that if my experience is something rich and worthy of dialogue, so is yours,” Twitty said. “Understanding the culinary journey of our ancestors gives us something to be proud of, and in my class, I will teach members how to preserve their ancestors’ legacy and continue telling their story through food.”
Michael Twitty is an African American Jewish writer, culinary historian and educator from the Washington, D.C., area. In 2010, he launched Afroculinaria, a culinary history blog dedicated to exploring and educating readers on African and African American foodways. In 2016, Twitty received the inaugural Taste Talks Culinary Pioneer Award and won both reader’s choice and editor’s choice for his letter to chef Sean Brock from Saveur. Also in 2016, he was named a TED Fellow. Twitty’s memoir, The Cooking Gene, tracks his ancestry through food from slavery to freedom; it received the 2018 James Beard Award for Best Writing as well as Book of the Year—making him the first Black author so awarded. Twitty penned a piece for Bon Appétit on his visit to Ghana, which was included in The Best American Food Writing 2019. His next book, Rice: A Savor the South Cookbook, was published in 2021, and he has plans to release Koshersoul, the follow-up to The Cooking Gene, later this year. Celebrating his food story, Twitty partnered with Spice Tribe and launched The Cooking Gene Spice Collection. He’s known to merge his love of food, travel and history, and has appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America and Michelle Obama’s Waffles + Mochi show on Netflix. Twitty is also part of the National Geographic Society’s 2021 class of Emerging Explorers.