The First Professional Kitchen Mashama Bailey Ever Worked In

Mashama Bailey's talent for cooking has earned her incredible praise and impressive success in the culinary world. This June, she was given the prestigious James Beard Foundation award for 2022's Most Outstanding Chef. And shortly after being granted this honor, Bailey was deemed "the most important chef in America" by The Financial Times thanks to her culinary abilities and dedication to highlighting the importance of African-American dishes in the States.

However, before Bailey sat down to interviews with major news outlets and gave a heartfelt speech after accepting one of the cooking industry's most coveted accolades, she was an aspiring young chef making her way through culinary school. And the first-ever restaurant she cooked in may surprise you. Because while some chefs first step into the culinary arts through the doors of prestigious establishments, like Samin Nostrat, who realized she wanted to get serious about food after bussing tables for the iconic Chez Panisse, Bailey had a humble introduction to the professional cooking industry.

Mashama Bailey started her culinary journey in a 'crappy' kitchen

Mashama Bailey revealed to Connect Savannah that when she was attending The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC (per its website), she earned her first official cooking job at a small restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But this establishment was not one you'd find on a list of the best places to grab a meal in New York City.

The restaurant, the L Cafe, was one part coffee and breakfast spot, one part dinner restaurant. Bailey explained that the L lacked some essential cooking tools. She recalled that the staff would measure out pints and quarts with sour cream containers.

However, despite the L Cafe being a less-than-luxurious restaurant, it seems apparent that Bailey's experience there was an essential part of the journey that led her to later and greater culinary achievements — such as co-founding The Grey, a restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, known for its high-quality Southern cuisine (per The Grey). As Bailey noted in her interview with Connect Savannah, she looked back on her time at L fondly, saying, "In this little crappy kitchen I fell in love with the industry."