Chef Lachelle has been a dynamic force on the Twin Cities food scene and is known for cooking globally inspired comfort food that thwarts unhealthy stereotypes and fuses in global flavors.
She began her culinary career by launching Chelles’ Kitchen in 2012 and soon became known for her work as the founding executive chef of Breaking Bread Cafe (2015) in North Minneapolis. In 2018, Chef Lachelle began building the Healthy Roots Institute with a mission focused on healing and social justice through food education, culinary arts and entrepreneurship. Through the institute, Chef Lachelle curates cooking workshops and retreats, teaches culinary arts and food business classes, and provides human resources, menu development and operations consulting to local restaurants and foodservice establishments.
Soul Food Matters!
by Lachelle Cunningham
American soul food treads deep into the spirit of human instinct where survival meets artistry. Distant from our minds are the Black and enslaved who served, nurtured and toiled for the masters, the land and the economy before tending to self. Yet, at the foundation of American cuisine, we find proficient agricultural and sustainable foodways and healing practices that are indigenous to Africa and America. This, infused with historical transitions and global food traditions, has become what we now think of as soul food. When placed on the roster of American cuisine, it’s isolated to a box often overlooked and dismissed as representing unhealthiness and a struggle intentionally forgotten.
As the enslaved were rationed what most considered waste, they were compelled to create their own culinary treasures by supplementing these meager allotments with ancestral traditions of foraging, fishing, hunting, gardening and bartering. This is where the culinary forefathers flourished. However, following emancipation, the economy shifted and the Department of Agriculture was created. With this, a multitude of land-use and food-related acts were designed and implemented to eliminate food sovereignty for Americans. By the 1960s, the “soul” era was born out of the civil rights movement and the term “soul food” was coined while the American food system continued to devolve into the Standard American Diet of today, bringing soul food in tow.
Alongside this decline in our food system, so much has been lost. So many culinary pioneers forgotten from history; so many food stories gone. I am here to reclaim this narrative…to remember and celebrate the forefathers…to honor the African and Indigenous traditions and ingredients, the healing plants and foods, customs and cooking techniques. These mementos uplift my spirit, inspire my passion, guide my intuition and help to hone my skills. I am here to demystify, amplify and celebrate soul food. Why? Because soul food matters!
Learn about Lachelle’s Beyond Soul Food class series, get recipes, and watch her class recordings here.