Chef Mashama Bailey at the 2022 James Beard Awards.

Meet the Speaker: Mashama Bailey

The James Beard Award-winning Chef and ICE Alumna will speak at ICE New York's commencement on May 22

Mashama Bailey, chef, restaurateur, author, James Beard Award winner and the subject of her own episode of “Chef’s Table,” will be bestowing her hard-earned wisdom upon the next generation of culinary and business professionals as the Keynote Speaker for ICE New York’s 2024 commencement ceremony in May. 

Few chefs have blazed onto the American dining scene with such universal praise as Chef Mashama Bailey.

Born in New York City — in the Bronx, specifically — Chef Mashama spent some of her formative years in Savannah, Georgia, before returning to the Big Apple, this time in Queens. Though she's cooked in some of New York's most lauded establishments and has staged in Burgundy, France, it was time spent cooking for her family that had the greatest impact on the chef she would become.

After graduating from ICE’s New York campus in 2000 with a diploma in Culinary Arts, Chef Mashama launched her cooking career at the famed Aquagrill before testing out various other cooking environments, including as a caterer and personal chef in NYC, and staging at Château du Fey in Burgundy, France. Three years spent working under Chef Gabrielle Hamilton at the legendary NYC restaurant Prune led Chef Mashama to the opportunity that would launch her into the stratosphere of the culinary world.

It was Chef Gabrielle who introduced Chef Mashama to her future business partner, John O. Morisano, who had purchased a dilapidated Greyhound bus station in Savannah with the vision of transforming it into a restaurant.

Thus, in 2014, The Grey was born.

Chef Mashama combined her unique take on “Port-City Southern” cuisine with Morisano's business acumen and wine expertise in order to create The Grey. The duo would eventually write a best-selling book, "Black, White and The Grey: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship and a Landmark Restaurant" about their experience opening and running a restaurant together.

Cookbook "Black, White and The Grey"

The Grey was an immediate success in the national culinary scene, with accolades pouring in. It was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2015 and was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Restaurants of 2015.” In 2017, the restaurant was named Eater’s Restaurant of the Year and earned a spot on Time magazine’s “World’s Greatest Places” list in 2018. Chef Mashama herself was nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of Best Chef: Southeast in 2018, winning the category the following year and winning the ultimate award of Outstanding Chef in 2022.

Beyond the formal recognition of awards, Chef Mashama has been featured as a guest on “Top Chef,” profiled in the opening episode for season six of Netflix’s hit show “Chef’s Table,” and interviewed along with industry legends like Lidia Bastianich and Cat Cora for the documentary “A Fine Line” about the experience of women in the restaurant industry.


Chef Mashama is also the Chairperson of the Edna Lewis Foundation which “works to revive, preserve and celebrate the rich history of African-American cookery by cultivating a deeper understanding of Southern food and culture in America," per its website.

In numerous interviews, Chef Mashama credits Ms. Lewis as an ultimate inspiration for what it means to be a Black female chef in the South. In the essay she contributed to “” (University of North Carolina Press, 2018), Chef Mashama shares that an early homework assignment from her Chef-Instructor at ICE to write an essay about a professional chef she admired is what brought Ms. Lewis to her consciousness in the first place.

“I wanted to write about someone who looked like me and like my mother and grandmothers," she says in her essay. "I began my search for a chef that I could admire. I started trolling around on the Internet without finding much on the subject of notable black women cooks. I searched at the public library, and after some digging, I found an article about a woman called Edna Lewis.” Saying that while many of her fellow classmates had never heard of Ms. Lewis, her Chef-Instructor had, and introduced her to Ms. Lewis’ plethora of cookbooks. She finishes the moment of reminiscence saying, “I prepared [Lewis’] boiled Virginia ham recipe with mustard and rosemary for our final exam. I got an A−.”

Chef Mashama Bailey smiles while working on the line at a restaurant
Chef Mashama Bailey. Photo courtesy: Chia Chong

As Edna Lewis was an inspiration to her, Chef Mashama continues to be an inspiration to chefs across the country, especially those looking to focus their careers on regional cuisine. In recognition of this, ICE recently launched the Chef Mashama Bailey Tuition Waiver. The recipient of the new scholarship will receive a $20,000 waiver toward the Culinary Arts program at the New York or Los Angeles campuses. Preference for the scholarship is given to applicants looking to pursue American Southern regional cuisine, just like Chef Mashama.

In addition to The Grey, Chef Mashama and her business partner recently opened The Grey Market and The Diner Bar at the Thompson Hotel in Austin, Texas. The Diner Bar is a full-service restaurant, while The Grey Market is a combination of a classic Southern lunch counter and a New York City-style bodega — a fitting tribute to the regions that shaped Chef Mashama as a person and a chef.

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