A Voice from the Kitchen

Staircase showing words like inclusivity

A Voice from the Kitchen

I began building my career and perhaps trying to find my identity through food back in 2017 and after seven years of hard graft I do not yet feel I belong.  In my journey I’ve come to realize that achieving equality, let alone equity, appears to be a challenge in the food sector. Knowing this, I feel compelled to say something, to write something and publish something, for the record.

Not just for my own peace of mind but because it is important for those who also wish to walk this path.

Inequity prevails

There is an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience.  I am familiar with that reaction.  The Sunday Times Best Selling Book “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” explains this well and to quote a news article back in 2017, “They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white, so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact, they interpret it as an affront. Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not to really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong”.

So I must say this loud and clear “I do not feel part of the system, I do not feel welcome, included, or equal”

It is important I voice this for three reasons:

Firstly, cooking is about connection; and whilst cliché, connecting people through food is what I enjoy and to some extent my ‘why’.  It brings me immense joy.

Secondly, I want to create platform on which others can build.  Other creatives, other people of colour, other people of Afro-Caribbean heritage.

Thirdly, I want to break down the systemic biases that favor certain foods and chefs over others.

As a fairly new entrant trying to make my way in this sector, trying to find my space I must say to those that follow me that you must expect to have to work twice as hard, just to achieve equal recognition just to get a foot in the door.  When I started Maria Bradford Kitchen back in 2017 as a relatively unknown black Chef I remember cold calling, card dropping, and personally visiting venues in hoping to secure a super-club venue.  I lacked credibility and profile in those days so the “No’s” where to be expected.  However, I soon learnt to ask my white, British Husband to call, drop in or enquire because his success rate was immediately telling.  I am not sure if it was the familiar accent, lack of dreadlocks, or his skin colour but it was crystal clear how much more airtime let alone success he could get.

We worked hard in those days to build credibility, get events and experience under my belt and with a growing social media presence I decided to pitch for my debut cookbook.

Most cookbook authors are white, and most literary agents, editors, publishers, food and prop stylists, photographers and book designers are white and therefore I accept the European lens, the white gaze when hearing my pitch, although it was more than a little infuriating for one major publisher to say, “African food is best plated in a home cooking style”.


Cookbook awards play a vital role in shaping the past, present, and future of the culinary arts.  Having overcome these and a few other minor but nonetheless frustrating challenges, comes my experience and view of cookbook awards.  Awards are important, for new Authors.  They are important for the sector because they are an opportunity to elevate culinary voices, amplify diverse perspectives, preserve culinary heritage, and inspire further creativity.

They are important events in the food sector and all the more important for new entrants hoping to break ground or build a culinary placemaking strategy for a particular type of cuisine.

They are established to champion the achievements of the UK’s current and emerging writers, publishers, photographers, broadcasters, content creators and personalities who encourage us to enjoy, experience and broaden our appreciation of food and drink through their work.  Once again the majority of cookbook authors are white, the judges are white and the nominations predominantly white.  Sadly these awards serve to maintain the status quo.  I am not suggesting the bias is conscious or completely unconscious.  Racism is not simply attitudinal prejudice or individual acts, but an historical legacy that privileges one group of people over others.  Colonialism, in all intents and purposes was a disservice to Africa.  It left in its wake a preference towards European food structured along racial and socio-economic lines exists to the present day, whereby European cuisines are typically regarded as superior and prestigious and these ingrained preferences pan-out disadvantaging black chefs, black authors that cook food from the African continent when it comes to the notable industry awards.


Cookbooks can be a catalyst for change. They can satiate a community’s need for representation and open a gateway to a world of flavours, narratives, and traditions to those unfamiliar.  They can often provide a foundation for culinary placemaking and therefore are important to countries that have been plundered of their cultural heritage. They can act as a vital bridge reconnecting people in Europe and across the diaspora to a wealth of culinary knowledge that is often at risk of being lost due to our habit of passing recipes through the practical demonstration of relatives.  It is entirely possible to connect people through food.

A cookbook can draw parallels between historical struggles and contemporary challenges, they can strive to raise awareness about enduring societal issues, emphasizing the collective responsibility to foster a world where every person can thrive.

On this basis is there not, an obligation for the gatekeepers and custodians of the prevailing system to recognize and proactively foster equal opportunities for all individuals, promote a more inclusive sector, and address the systemic barriers that prevail?

To those that follow me and dream of breaking through, do not be put off.  You can do it.  I felt a duty to share these observations so that you are better equipped and able to endure and overcome the system and one day realize the dream of a more equitable sector.  I certainly hope I am alive to see it.

Final Note

In conclusion, as a Black chef navigating the culinary world, I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges of inequity and lack of representation within the industry, and why the table stays white. Despite the barriers I’ve faced, I firmly believe in the importance of recognition via awards for cookbooks. These accolades not only celebrate culinary excellence but are crucial in the preservation of culinary heritage and for building appreciation for other cuisines and cultures.

However, the systemic biases that exist within the awarding process, where predominantly white panels often overlook the contributions of chefs and authors from marginalized communities, must be addressed . This perpetuates a cycle of inequality that undermines the true diversity and richness of our culinary landscape.

Finally, to aspiring chefs and authors who dream of breaking through, I urge you not to be discouraged by the obstacles that lie ahead. Your voices, your stories, and your contributions are invaluable to the culinary community. By sharing our experiences, advocating for change, and supporting one another, we can work towards realising a more inclusive and equitable culinary world—one where every person has the opportunity to thrive and be celebrated for their culinary talents.


Africa is the final frontier of food, and the movement to elevate our culinary culture upwards in the food hierarchy continues.  I intend to play my part, in this necessary journey.


Why the table stays white 

Why I am no longer talking to white people about race

To Change Racial Disparity in Food, Let’s Start With Cookbooks