THE COVER STAR of CityBook's latest issue, chef-activist Chris Williams, is also the star of a Netflix show that debuts next week. High on the Hog is a hotly anticipated and already-celebrated four-part docuseries focused on how African American cuisine transformed America's culinary landscape.
In the show, adapted from food historian Jessica B. Harris' book of the same name and directed by Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams, food writer Stephen Satterfield sets out to discover the meaning behind and the modernization of centuries-old traditions. African American cuisine, as viewers learn alongside him, is "much more than stews and soul food." Satterfield meets with chefs, food activists and historians on a journey that begins in Benin, Africa, winds its way through Charleston, New York and Philly, before ending right here in the heart of H-Town.
Chris Williams on the cover of the Mid-Spring 2021 issue of Houston CityBook
Chicken & waffles at Lucille's
The show's final episode, called "Freedom," focuses on the ongoing influence of slavery on American cuisine and culture. Satterfield learns about Juneteenth-inspired fare, as in desserts by Dallas-based James Beard finalist Jerrelle Guy, author of Black Girl Baking. He heads south and hops on horses with the Northeastern Trailriders, a group of Black cowboys, before venturing into the delicious and multifaceted world of East Texas barbecue — a culinary scene pioneered by the enslaved.
The episode — and the series — concludes in Houston, where Williams prepares dishes from Toni Tipton-Martin's book Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking for Satterfield and Tipton-Martin herself, at his Museum District-area restaurant Lucille's.
As Williams told CityBook last month, the flagship restaurant of his newly formed Lucille's Hospitality Group "is a tribute to my great-grandmother and culinary pioneer," Lucille B. Smith. "We've been feeding the future while serving the past for almost nine years," he said. "I've realized that as a chef, I'm uniquely equipped to tackle these larger issues that surround food. It's no longer about me creating a dish or restaurant concept. Instead, I want to be folding the community into the intended purpose of everything I create. It's about getting everyone involved in every part of the process to get there collectively. I also want to be actively changing the conversation of who can do what and what that looks like."
All four episodes of High on the Hog drop May 26.