During this year’s Black History Month, Bon Appétit is partnering with celebrated CheFarmer (a combination of Chef and Farmer) Matthew Raiford. Matthew will be joining a number of communities that Bon Appétit serves for in-person and virtual events. Additionally, Bon Appétit chefs across the country will be making recipes from Matthew’s cook book, Bress ‘n’ Nyam.
Matthew is the great-great-great grandson of Jupiter Gilliard, who bought farmland in Coastal Georgia in 1874, following his emancipation from slavery. Matthew and his family still farm that land today, nearly 150 years later, promoting food access and organic farming practices and sharing their Gullah-Geechee foodways and heritage with a national audience. Read on to learn more about Matthew’s work.
After a 10-year military career Matthew attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Upon graduating, he started his culinary journey, taking on a number of roles including joining the culinary teams for multiple large hotels, working as the Executive Chef at the House of Representatives, and serving as Program Coordinator for the Culinary Arts Program at the College of Coastal Georgia.
Matthew went on to attend the University of California – Santa Cruz Center for AgroEcology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) which helps train new farmers in the theory and practice of sustainable agriculture (you can read more about Bon Appétit’s connection to CASFS here!) Matthew used the learnings from the CASFS program to help put the ideas of regenerative and sustainable food systems into practice. For the past decade he has embraced his heritage as the sixth generation farmer of his family’s land, and has been working on projects of soil regeneration and bioremediation using red wiggler worms, black soldier flies, as well as creating pastureland for his animals. Matthew raises hens, goats, and KuneKune pigs, and farms crops like sugarcane, sweet potatoes, and hibiscus.
Matthew’s book, Bress ‘n’ Nyam or ‘bless and eat” in the Gullah Geechee dialect, features over 100 heirloom recipes that offer a “culinary representation of the ocean, rivers, and rich fertile loam in and around the coastal South. From the Carolinas to Georgia and Florida, this is where descendants of enslaved Africans came together to make extraordinary food.”