Chef Joe In The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Harrisburg native and well-known chef to be part of National Museum of African American History and Culture


From By Sue Gleiter

Chef Joe Randall, who grew up in Harrisburg, will be part of a display at a new museum in Washington, D.C.

On Sept. 24, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will open on the National Mall, close to the Washington Monument.

The museum will share the story of black history from slavery to the present. Among the items visitors will see will be Nat Turner’s Bible, Harriet Tubman’s hymnal and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves.

Randall, who operates a cooking school in Savannah, Georgia, is one of many faces visitors will see. A “Cuisine Noir” magazine cover with Randall’s photograph will be part of an exhibit where a Smithsonian-produced film featuring several chefs will play.

In addition, Randall’s cookbook, “A Taste of Heritage: The New African American Cuisine” as well as a 40-year-old colander he has used throughout his career will be on permanent display.

“I tell people if you hang around long enough somebody will say something nice about you,” Randall told WSAV-TV Channel 3 in Savannah in a recent interview.

Randall got his start in Harrisburg at the Hotel Harrisburger where he apprenticed under the late chef Robert W. Lee, who was Harrisburg’s first African-American executive chef.

He is a 1964 graduate of the former William Penn High School in Harrisburg.

After the Harrisburger closed in the late 1960s, Randall worked at the Penn Harris Hotel under Frank Castelli. His career led to moves to Buffalo, N.Y., Seattle, and then California where he met his wife, Barbara, and helped the owners of Georgia, a well-known African-American restaurant develop recipes and a menu.

He is president of the Edna Lewis Foundation, named after the late Edna Lewis who inspired a generation of young African American chefs. He also operates Joe Randall’s Cooking School in Savannah and he is known as the “Dean of Southern Cuisine.”

The museum was approved by Congress in 2003. When it opens, it will have 3,500 objects on display, just a small fraction of more than 40,000, mostly donated, items the museum now holds.


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