Michael W. Twitty is an African-American and Jewish writer, culinary historian,[1] and educator. He is the author of The Cooking Gene, published by HarperCollins/Amistad, which won the 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Book of the Year as well as the category for writing. The book was also a finalist for The Kirkus Prize in nonfiction, the Art of Eating Prize and a Barnes and Noble New Discoveries finalist in nonfiction.

Michael W. Twitty
OccupationAuthor, culinary historian, historical interpreter
Notable work
The Cooking Gene

Early life and careerEdit

Michael Twitty: "Southern Discomfort — Confronting Culinary Injustice" at MAD, August 2013.

Twitty was born in Washington, D.C. in 1977. According to historic records and data from DNA testing, his ancestors were originally Mende people from Sierra Leone, Akan people from Ghana and British and Irish immigrants whose descendants owned slaves.[2][3] He first became interested in traditional cooking as a child when he went on a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. He majored in African-American studies and anthropology at Howard University, but did not finish due to financial constraints.[4] In 2010, he launched Afroculinaria, a culinary history blog that covers African and African-American foodways. In 2011, he began his "Cooking Gene" project, which would form the basis for his 2017 book The Cooking Gene.

Twitty founded and oversees the Southern Discomfort Tour, a journey through the American South designed to raise awareness about the impact racism had on Southern cuisine.[5]

In 2013, Twitty gained greater media attention when he published an open letter to Paula Deen after she was fired from the Food Network.[6] That same year he spoke at the MAD symposium in Copenhagen after being invited by Rene Redzepi, owner of NOMA. In 2016, he traveled to Vancouver to give a TED talk entitled "Gastronomy and the social justice reality of food".[7] In 2016, Twitty received the inaugural Culinary Pioneer Award from Tastetalks and won both readers choice and editors choice for his letter to chef Sean Brock on Afroculinaria from Saveur. In January 2017, Colonial Williamsburg named Twitty its first Revolutionary in Residence.[8][9]

Personal lifeEdit

Twitty is openly gay.[10] He was raised nominally Christian and converted to Judaism at age 25.[11] He is engaged.


  1. ^ Eaton, Hillary (April 10, 2017). "Michael Twitty, the African American Jewish writer, is poised to give us a new way to think about Passover". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Weigl, Andrea (October 2, 2013). "Culinary historian Michael Twitty celebrates cultural roots of Southern fare". Richard Times-Dispatch.
  3. ^ Twitty, Michael (March 17, 2015). "'Kiss me, I'm Irish' took on a new meaning when DNA proved that I was". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Weissman, Michaels (February 16, 2016). "His Paula Deen takedown went viral. But this food scholar isn't done yet". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ Thompson, Claire (May 4, 2012). "Southern discomfort: Tracing a region's history through its food". Grist.
  6. ^ Jessica Leigh Lebos (December 25, 2013). "Year in Review: Paula Deen's bad 2013". Connect Savannah.
  7. ^ "Does the best music education happen in school? What is culinary justice? 11 more talks from fresh thinkers at TED2016". TED. February 15, 2016.
  8. ^ "Revolutionaries in Residence: Modern Day Revolutionaries to Inspire You". Colonial Williamsburg.
  9. ^ Harris, Andrew (January 23, 2017). "Colonial Williamsburg welcomes its first Revolutionary in Residence". Williamsburg Yorktown Daily.
  10. ^ Twitty, Michael (August 16, 2017). "I'm Black Jewish and Gay - And Food Is My Weapon Against Bigotry". Forward.
  11. ^ Dolsten, Josefin (June 3, 2017). "How this African-American Jew uses cooking to fuse his identities". Times of Israel.

External linksEdit