Exploring Black and Indigenous Foodways with Chef Maya Marie

Chef Maya Marie educates historical food narratives of Black and Indigenous foodways by serving up the real farm-to-table connection.

Exploring Black and Indigenous Foodways with Chef Maya Marie​

Photo Cred: Chef Maya Marie

Creating opportunities for reflection and connection through food history

Chef Maya Marie is a renaissance woman. From examining traditional ingredients from Black and indigenous communities to creating visceral food experiences to tie record to the present, she is a chef, a food educator, and an urban farmer. 

As the Founder and Project Director of Deep Routes, a culinary and agricultural educational platform, Maya develops community-centered meals to provide spaces to share the untold histories of specific foodways. Connecting these pathways throughout the African diaspora and back to the continent, Maya brings awareness to the origins of cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavors.

Growing up as a secondhand sous chef

Maya’s initial curiosity in the kitchen stems from being a secondhand for her mother. Growing up with seven siblings, in Baltimore, Maryland, with generations of family chefs, Maya has a deep history of experimenting with various ingredients and cuisines. She was surrounded by extensive Southern food culture, from fried catfish and mustard greens to bean soups and barbecue.

While learning to cook with her mother, Maya remembers the first meal she made on her own: baked cornbread. Preparing the cornbread from the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix box and transforming it into a soft treat taught her how the process works from ingredient to final dish. Early memories of producing food propelled her to get her culinary arts degree to develop her craft further.

Exploring Black and Indigenous Foodways with Chef Maya Marie

Farming and cooking go hand-in-hand

Beyond developing her skills as a chef, she became an urban farmer. Maya follows a lineage of farmers, as her grandfather was a descendant of sharecroppers from Mississippi. Connecting with ingredients, from seed to plant, Maya finds pleasure in ideating meal plans based on their genealogical history and preparing them for guests. 

"My grandfather would farm in his backyard. He had a lot of vegetable crops, and he would prepare the ingredients from the garden, shelling beans or chopping up green beans so they could get blanched and eaten. From that, I understood that the final dish is a final step in the process and enjoyed the many things that happened before that."

Keeping spirituality in the kitchen

Inspired by culinary anthropologist Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Maya wishes to reconnect with her spirituality in the kitchen. Vertamae speaks about cooking with your spirit, which was at odds with Maya’s formal culinary education. 

Exploring Black and Indigenous Foodways with Chef Maya Marie

Through her courses at Deep Routes, she produces food experiences allowing facilitators and participants to create and share meals. By collaborating from farm to table, participants can see and participate in the harvesting and preparing of each meal. Always anchored back to the dish’s roots, she ensures the ingredients remain the main character in each meal. By the end, Maya illustrates the long history of the food pathway of how the seeds were distributed and preserved. 

"Creating a dish is a process that takes time. The dish first exists out of nowhere. I then start thinking, how was this created, and what was the creation story?"

Before the pandemic, Deep Routes courses were mainly in-person, allowing participants to experience the farm-to-table through the senses. Pivoting the business to include virtual experiences for the first time, Maya makes her virtual workshops as hands-on as possible – including mailed meal kits and live virtual courses.

From harvesting food to preparing ingredients, Maya teaches the importance of uplifting the food histories of Black and Indigenous communities. Motivated by preserving the legacy of Southern food pathways, Maya pushes for further social change and the potential for a more sustainable future. 

Planning a team-building event?

Explore our virtual and in-person cooking classes, mixology experiences and more — all hosted by Black chefs and culinary creators.