City Cast

Food & Drink: Ebony Test Kitchen

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on June 8
A Black woman smiles in an eclectic kitchen

Former food editor Charlotte Lyons in the Ebony Test Kitchen in 1992. (Courtesy of Landmarks Illinois)

The Ebony Test Kitchen is headed to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. The acquisition of the Chicago kitchen comes after years of preservation efforts.

Why was the Ebony Test Kitchen so iconic?

Built in 1972, the 26-by-13-foot kitchen was on the 10th floor of the Johnson Publishing Co. building on Michigan Avenue, where the country’s leading Black magazines Ebony and Jet were produced.

It was where food editors dreamt up wide-ranging recipes that were recreated in Black homes across the country.

How do you preserve a kitchen?

After the building was sold and about to be redeveloped, Landmarks Illinois bought the kitchen for one dollar in 2018. The kitchen was loaned for an exhibit in New York last year before the nonprofit donated it to the Smithsonian.

Spanish rice

Spanish rice from former Ebony food editor Freda DeKnight. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Tribune / Getty)

What were some of Ebony’s famous dishes?

Inaugural food editor Freda DeKnight’s columns were published as a cookbook, which was lauded for representing Black food and culture with dignity. Her dishes ranged from chicken okra gumbo to oyster turnovers to blackberry cobbler.

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