Michael Twitty (@koshersoul) is a fascinating man I would love to share a Pesach (Passover) seder with. We could trade stories – Michael, of what being a Black Jew celebrity chef is all about … while I would tell about running my mother’s Chinese takeaway restaurant and Asian grocery store in downtown Tel Aviv. From her hospital bed, Mom said if I kept alive the business she loved so much, she felt she could win the battle to regain her health. Whatever I did or didn’t do, those who loved that vivacious wonder enjoyed Mom’s company for almost another decade after that. Mom was Israeli and my Dad is Chinese.
Tablet Mag shares a biography adventure article about Twitty, who sometimes introduces himself as a ‘Nice Jewish boy’:
"...The topics (Twitty) deals with – culinary justice, multiculturalism – are very relevant here," (food writer Ronit Vered) said. “He’s a very complex man: African American, Jewish by choice, gay. Certainly, the issues he raises in his talks are not easy to for many audiences to digest. In a world that has a clear preference for the easy-to-digest, his complexities are very interesting. People who meet Michael end up asking themselves hard questions about how identity and community come into play in the kitchen, questions that aren’t usually raised. So if people were left with more questions than answers, then I got what I wanted..."
Getting difficult reactions from audiences is nothing new to Twitty; his plantation events often require dealing with difficult history. "It’s in the dead quiet after the laughter than I know I’ve made the dent," he said. "Food is lovely and nice, it gets us to a new place of understanding, but then you must deal with the serious stuff. I guess my model, again, is Passover. It’s a riot, right? Kids doing little plays, wine, and songs. But the best Seders are when, in-between, you get a lofty discussion of freedom and slavery and what they mean, what oppression does and how self-liberation takes place. That’s what I try to capture in how I teach and how I cook."