Michael W. Twitty

Michael W. Twitty (born 1977) is an African-American 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
Michael Twitty.jpg
Michael Twitty speaks in 2013
Born1977 (age 44–45)
OccupationAuthor, culinary historian, historical interpreter
Notable work
The Cooking Gene

Early life and educationEdit

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

Michael Twitty was born in Washington, D.C. in 1977. He is of Mende, Akan and Irish descent. His Irish ancestors were enslavers; Twitty wrote an article for the Guardian explaining how he discovered his Irish ancestry through a combination of genetic testing and historical records.[2][3] Twitty's great-great grandfather, Elijah Mitchell, was on a nearby street when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House, ending the American Civil War.[4]

Twitty 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.[5]


In 2010, he launched Afroculinaria, a culinary history blog that covers African and African-American foodways.[6] In 2010, Twitty worked with the D. Landreth Seed Company to compile the African American Heritage Collection of heirloom seeds for the company's 225th anniversary. The collection features roughly 30 plants, including the long-handled dipper gourd and the fish pepper, showcasing how instrumental they were to African-American survival and independence.[7][8] In 2011, he began his "Cooking Gene" project, which would form the basis for his 2017 James Beard Award-winning book The Cooking Gene.[9] He is writing another book slated to come out in 2020, titled Kosher Soul.[10]

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.[11] As part of this project, Twitty recreates the experiences of his slave ancestors, picking cotton, chopping wood, working in fields, and cooking in plantation kitchens.[4]

In 2013, Twitty gained greater media attention when he published an open letter to Paula Deen after she was fired from the Food Network.[12] 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".[13] 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.[14][15]

Twitty has become an icon in his efforts to change food and culinary injustices that have been a prevalent problem in African American communities and traces to African roots to help the public understand how African-American food shaped American cuisine.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Twitty is openly gay.[16] He was raised nominally Christian and converted to Judaism at age 25.[17] He married Taylor Keith on October 1, 2020.


  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. ^ a b c Martyris, Nina (5 September 2017). "A Black Food Historian Explores His Bittersweet Connection To Robert E. Lee". NPR.org. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  5. ^ Weissman, Michaels (February 16, 2016). "His Paula Deen takedown went viral. But this food scholar isn't done yet". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Weissman, Michaele (2016-02-16). "His Paula Deen takedown went viral. But this food scholar isn't done yet". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  7. ^ Tortorello, Michael (2012-06-13). "Juneteenth Gardens: Planting the Seeds of Survival". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  8. ^ "White House Veggie Garden Inspires African American Gardeners, Seed Company Hopes to do Same". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  9. ^ "Michael Twitty Speaks to the SFS Middle School". www.sidwell.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-12.
  10. ^ Kosher Soul goodreads.com
  11. ^ Thompson, Claire (May 4, 2012). "Southern discomfort: Tracing a region's history through its food". Grist.
  12. ^ Jessica Leigh Lebos (December 25, 2013). "Year in Review: Paula Deen's bad 2013". Connect Savannah.
  13. ^ "Does the best music education happen in school? What is culinary justice? 11 more talks from fresh thinkers at TED2016". TED. February 15, 2016.
  14. ^ "Revolutionaries in Residence: Modern Day Revolutionaries to Inspire You". Colonial Williamsburg.
  15. ^ Harris, Andrew (January 23, 2017). "Colonial Williamsburg welcomes its first Revolutionary in Residence". Williamsburg Yorktown Daily.
  16. ^ Twitty, Michael (August 16, 2017). "I'm Black Jewish and Gay - And Food Is My Weapon Against Bigotry". Forward.
  17. ^ Dolsten, Josefin (June 3, 2017). "How this African-American Jew uses cooking to fuse his identities". Times of Israel.

External linksEdit