For the American restaurant industry, there is no American fare without the contributions and influences of Black chefs and Black culture. To honor their impact on the industry, this month we’re highlighting chefs making big moves in the culinary scene!


We’re kicking off this series with two chefs. Chef Cedric Harden of River Roast and Chef Darnell Reed of Luella’s Southern Kitchen are working together to curate a multi-course menu for the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America, a national event celebrating local restaurants in 26 cities.

As Chicago-based cooks, these chefs will represent Chi-Town in an effort to support local restaurants in rebuilding a more sustainable and equitable industry. If you’re in the area and interested in a night of yummy food and lots of fun, you can purchase tickets to Taste America: Chicago here.

Photo: River Roast

Chef Cedric Harden

Growing up in a family with deep Southern roots, Chef Cedric Harden’s love for food started at a young age. His devotion to cooking and bringing people together through food inspired him to study culinary arts at the Le Cordon Bleu Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.

Chef Cedric worked his way through Chicago kitchens at Joey’s Brickhouse, Le Lan, SOUL, and Wolfgang Puck Catering Company, plus a 7-year tenure as sous chef at Urban Belly, Belly Shack, and Belly Q. 

Most recently, Chef Cedric served as executive chef at Ill Forks Steakhouse, where he put his spin on classic Midwest American steakhouse cuisine. Today Chef Cedric is cooking up contemporary American tavern fare at River Roast, a local Chicago social house. 

Photo: Mo Parker Creations

Chef Darnell Reed

Born and raised in Chicago, Chef Darnell Reed grew up watching Cajun Chef Justin Wilson on channel 11. With influences from his great grandmother Luella Funches’s food and his early interest in cooking, Chef Darnell attended and graduated from Washburne Trade School where he studied culinary arts. 

Chef Darnell started his culinary career at Hilton Hotels and stayed with them for 18 years, starting as a prep cook and working his way up to executive chef of Conrad Chicago. In 2015, he opened his own restaurant, which would become Luella’s Southern Kitchen. 

Known for its elevated Southern comfort food, Luella’s Southern Kitchen has been in the Michelin Guide as a Bib Gourmand and was also named best new Southern Restaurant by the Chicago Tribune and best Soul Food Restaurant by Chicago Reader. Chef Darnell has opened a second location in Bucktown — Luella’s Gospel Bird. His goal is to leave a legacy of great restaurants under the Luella’s brand.