Klancy Miller’s Honoring Black, Culinary Women ‘For the Culture’
She wanted a magazine to honor us in the food and wine industries, so she created it
Klancy Miller is doing it for the culture. Literally. Throughout the course of her career as a trained pastry chef, cookbook author, and food writer, Miller noticed that the stories of Black women in the food, wine, and hospitality industries were generally untold. Instead of hoping for increased representation in mainstream media publications, Miller took Toni Morrison’s advice to heart: “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
However, Miller wanted to share the stories of Black women and femmes in a print magazine first. For the Culture, which tells incredible stories throughout the diaspora, debuted last month. It is the first magazine of its kind in the food and beverage industries in which the writing, photography, and illustrations are all created by Black women. In less than one month, For the Culture has already sold more than 50% of its inventory.
In a recent talk with ZORA, Miller discussed the inaugural issue of For the Culture and her commitment to documenting Black women and femmes in the food and beverage industries.
ZORA: Is For the Culture a catalyst for changing the conversation about the importance of Black womens’ contributions to food and beverage?
Klancy Miller: I absolutely hope that the magazine is a strong catalyst for improving representation of Black women in food, wine, and hospitality. Black people’s stories are certainly undertold. And specifically, Black women deserve some shine. There are a lot of people doing really wonderful work — and I hope that For the Culture will lead to more storytelling in this space. In terms of curriculum, I do think it’s appropriate for culinary schools, especially in the U.S., to have curricula that reflect the influences of Black people on cuisine.
In a 2020 interview with Food and Wine, you shared a vision for the magazine growing into a larger media platform and possibly even a podcast? Do you still have this vision?
Well, that interview was before I experienced pandemic fatigue. I definitely would love to see For the Culture develop its storytelling platforms beyond the print magazine, but I have to consider personal bandwidth, and we also have to grow our team. It took a lot to get this first issue out, so I’m not in a rush to expand at this point. Right now, my focus is on the second issue.
Did the pandemic pose any particular obstacles for the production of the magazine? Do you foresee any of these challenges moving forward?
I feel like it is a true miracle that the first issue came together. Every single person who I was in communication with for the first issue had serious obstacles to overcome during the pandemic, so it’s a blessing that we were all able to pull it together. With the backdrop of the pandemic, there have been even more unknowns. And frankly, there have been more tragedies and more difficulty and more fatigue. I planned to travel for interviews and photoshoots, but the pandemic definitely thwarted those intentions. And we worked around that. That’s why this issue is a testimony of what can be done even when the deck is stacked against you. I can’t say what the future obstacles will be. But I feel like this first issue was produced in a pretty difficult year. Hopefully, things will get easier. But even if it’s difficult, we can still do it.
What’s your favorite profile or story from the first issue?
This inaugural issue is such a beautiful, rich collection of storytelling from so many different voices about so many different Black women. I love every single piece! But if I had to choose, I really like Zella Palmer’s piece on the influence of blues. It’s a piece that walks us through her personal history and her family’s history but also all of the Black women, hospitality, and culinary leaders who’ve come out of New Orleans and have been so influential to the industry.
“Our legacies, our present, and our Black futures are all woven together through these stories.”
Why did you select Jessica B. Harris for the cover?
First and foremost, I consider Dr. Jessica B. Harris to be a role model, luminary, and someone who truly deserves to be honored for her work in the food space. As a food historian and a prolific writer, she deserves as many flowers as possible right now. So it is an absolute honor to have her as the cover star. I also wanted to show that For the Culture is for Black women of all ages and a place where stories can be told about Black women spanning generations. Our legacies, our present, and our Black futures are all woven together through these stories. And that’s why it was important for me to include Dr. Jessica Harris on the cover because she represents this intergenerational storytelling.
By the way, congratulations on meeting your initial Indiegogo and Patreon fundraising goals for the first two issues. Can you share some insight about the process and why you think it is important for Black women to consider crowdfunding?
Indiegogo funded the first issue. The campaign financed the costs of printing and distribution, but I was able to pay Black creatives — writers and photographers — to bring these stories to life. After we hit our initial $40,000 fundraising goal, I continued to receive donations through Cash App and Venmo. There was also an amazing bake sale, which brought in another $9,000. This was my first time launching a crowdfunding campaign, but now I’m a big fan!
You must be very strategic about it — reach out to everyone you know, use your social media platforms, ask friends and supporters to use their social media platforms to spread the word and boost signals about the campaign. If you do all those things, you can really raise a lot of money to fund your program or project. Crowdfunding is a lot of work, but it’s a lot easier than trying to figure out how to come up with such a large sum of money on your own.
What’s next for Klancy Miller and For the Culture magazine?
As for me, I’m juggling editor-in-chief duties for the second issue of For the Culture magazine while still contributing content and new recipes on platforms like NYT Cooking. I’m also currently working on For the Culture, the book.