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Michael Twitty: The Cooking Gene

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Date(s) - 02/07/2018
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

International House Great Room


The Cooking Gene: Tracing My African American Story Through Food

For African American culinary historian Michael W. Twitty there was a giant hole in the story of American cooking as big as the one in the story of most African American families. Putting the microscope on himself, Michael decided to fully trace out his family history through the story of Southern and American food. Using genetic research, historic interpretation, nature study, heirloom gardening and interviews with contemporary voices in food, his journey led him back to his family’s origins in West and Central Africa and a front ring seat in the debate over race and food in American life.



Michael W. Twitty is a recognized culinary historian and independent scholar focusing on historic African American food and folk culture and culinary traditions of historic Africa and her Diaspora. He is a living history interpreter and historic chef, one of the few recognized international experts of his craft—the re-construction of early Southern cuisine as prepared by enslaved African American cooks for tables high and low—from heirloom seeds and heritage breed animals to fish, game, and foraged plant foods to historic cooking methods to the table. He is webmaster of, the first website/blog devoted to the preservation of historic African American foods and foodways. He has conducted over two hundred classes and workshops, written curricula and educational programs, giving lectures and performed cooking demonstrations for over 100 groups including the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Carnegie-Mellon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Library of Congress, the Association for the Study of Food and Society and Oxford University’s Symposium on Food and Cookery. He has been profiled in the Washington Post and Washington Prost Magazine, the New York Times, Grist, PittsburghPost-Gazette, Cuisine Noir, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Jet Magazine, and other periodicals. He has also been interviewed multiple times on NPR including the acclaimed food program The Splendid Table and Poppy Tooker’s Louisiana Eats and has been interviewed by the BBC. In 2013, he made several major appearances on television connected to his work including Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmerman, PBS’ Time Team America, and Many Rivers to Cross with Dr. Henry Louis Gates. Michael’s new book, The Cooking Gene, will be published in August 2017 by HarperCollins. Michael was one of 20 people selected globally as a 2016 TED Fellow – you can hear his talk here. 

Ticket Information

Tickets are free for opted-in students and $5 for opted-out students and public. Tickets can be purchased at the door by cash, check, or VolCard.

This event is designated as a Becker Seminar through the Chancellor’s Honors Program.

If you have questions, or need to arrange disability accommodations, please contact the Center for Student Engagement at (865) 974-5455. This program is funded in part by the Student Programming Allocation Committee (SPAC).

Parking Information

The Great Room is located in the International House on the UT Knoxville campus. Though parking is not guaranteed, we recommend parking in Lot 12. This lot is near the I-House and Hodges Library.

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