Black History Month Spotlight: Chef Patrick Clark
By Chef Michael Lemon, Corporate Division Chef, Entrepreneurial Council, FLIK Hospitality Group
Black History Month allows us to recognize and celebrate Black Americans’ achievements from all society and culture segments – entertainment, science, art, education, music, and culinary.
Today, we honor an African American Chef Hall of Fame inductee, Chef Patrick Clark. A visionary and a legend in his time. I first met Patrick while we were culinary arts students at New York City Technical College. After graduating, Patrick went on to further his skills in London and France.
Indeed, considered one of the first "celebrity" American Chefs in the '80s and '90s.
Patrick was a pioneer in the American cuisine movement and a role model for African Americans interested in the culinary arts. To many people Patrick Clark was more than a chef, he was also a mentor. Chef Clark was highly respected amongst chefs who came into contact with him and adored by all customers for his charm and professional demeanor. Patrick was one of the early American Chefs to successfully run and operate two quality restaurant kitchens in New York City at the same time. An incredible feat!
Once considered the most famous and respected Black Chef in the U.S., Patrick took this as a huge responsibility. He always made sure his kitchens were a welcoming place for all. Chef Clark built his kitchens on respect, kindness, and a smile. He opened many doors for young, aspiring chefs who otherwise would not have chosen this industry.
One of his more well-known dishes - BBQ flank steak, baked beans, and spoon bread has been featured in the book: Cooking with Patrick Clark: A Tribute to the Man and His Cuisine by Charlie Trotter. The book was compiled as a tribute to Patrick Clark. BBQ is an all-time American Favorite. Baked beans is as American as Apple Pie. Spoon Bread is Southern. All three are American favorites. Chef Clark loved cooking American classics but he wanted to dispel the belief that the only foods Black Chefs knew how to prepare were Soul & Southern food.
Chef Clark succumbed to his untimely death at the age of just forty-two while awaiting a heart transplant. As you can expect, this was a devasting loss for American cuisine and all young aspiring Black Culinary Professionals.
I'm so glad we’re telling his story this month. Not sure why he's not given credit as one of the great pioneers of American cuisine. This erasure may be unconscious or born of ignorance, but it's cyclical and pervasive for many of us. For the next generation of chefs to fully understand our country's fine-dining culture, we must continue telling our great chefs’ stories.
For many, these stories of "Chefs, We Should Know" not only illuminate the past. It lights the way forward.
Barbecued Flank Steak
A recipe inspired by Chef Clark.
|2 lbs. flank steak|
|7 cloves garlic, peeled|
|3 bay leaves|
|3 serrano chilies, coarsely chopped|
|2/3 c. rice wine vinegar|
|1 1/4 c. ketchup|
|1/3 c. brown sugar|
|1/3 c. dijon mustard|
|2 c. cilantro|
|2 1/2 tsp. cumin powder|
|2 1/2 tsp. oregano|
|2 1/2 tsp. thyme, chopped|
|1 1/4 tbsp. salt|
|1 onion, chopped|
|2/3 c. olive oil|
Prepare the sauce:
- Mash the garlic, bay leaves, chiles and salt with a mortar and pestle until smooth.
- Mix in the vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar and mustard. Set aside.
Prepare the steak:
- In a large bowl, combine the cilantro, cumin, oregano, thyme, onion, garlic, and oil. Add the flank steak and marinate.
- Season steaks to taste with salt and pepper. Baste both sides of the steak with the prepared sauce from earlier and grill.
- Rest the steaks. Slice the flank steaks against the grain of the meat and serve.
Suggested Side: Baked Beans
Interested in reading more about FLIK's celebration of Black History Month? Check out related posts here:
- A Path Forward
- FLIK x Black History Month: On Rice & Roots
- Black History Month Spotlight: Chef Hercules Posey
- How Black Chefs Shaped American Cuisine
- Black History Month Spotlight: Chef Leah Chase
- The Culture of Food as Medicine
- Food and Wine - Tracing the Footsteps of Patrick Clark
- The Splendid Table - Culinary Hero, influential father: Chef Preston Clark remembers chef Patrick Clark
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