Preservation Snapshots is one of Landmarks Illinois’ longest running educational programs. Since 2001, the series has provided 175 lectures on diverse preservation-related topics to our members and the public. Guest speakers have included architects, historians, preservation professionals, planners, authors and architectural historians. Landmarks Illinois has partnered with venues such as Chicago Cultural Center, The Auditorium Theatre and AIA Chicago to bring over 8,000 attendees the opportunity to learn about Illinois’ remarkable past and the community benefits of historic preservation and adaptive reuse, and to be inspired to take action in their own communities.
Saving the Iconic Ebony Test Kitchen
Learn about the Landmarks Illinois’ Skyline Council effort that began in 2018 to save Ebony magazine’s iconic Test Kitchen from the former Johnson Publishing Company headquarters in Chicago. The carefully conserved psychedelic kitchen will soon make its first public debut since it was deconstructed, appearing as a centerpiece of the 2022 exhibit “African/American: Making the Nation’s Table” at the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in New York City. In this virtual lecture, learn about the initiative to save the Test Kitchen and about the upcoming MOFAD exhibit as well as hear stories from Ebony Food Editor and Publicist Charla Draper. (Photo by Lee Bey)
Wednesday, February 23, 2022
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CDT
- Lisa DiChiera, Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy
- Jean Nihoul, Former Curator & Culinary Operations Manager at MOFAD
- Charla Draper, Publicist and former Ebony Food Editor
The Ebony magazine Test Kitchen was a psychedelic, 1970s state-of-the-art kitchen, where Ebony magazine food editors and staff tested recipes for its iconic, long-running “Date with a Dish” column. In 2018, Landmarks Illinois, with help from its Skyline Council and other volunteers, deconstructed the Ebony Test Kitchen from its home in the former Johnson Publishing Company headquarters in Chicago, which was being converted by a developer from office to residential use. (See photos here)
In 2019, after seeking proposals for reuse of the kitchen, Landmarks Illinois accepted the Museum of Food and Drink’s (MOFAD) proposal to conserve and include the kitchen in its exhibition “African/American: Making the Nation’s Table.” MOFAD will pay tribute to the legacy of African American cuisine and unveil the Ebony Test Kitchen to visitors publicly for the first time at the exhibit opening in February 2022.
The exhibit is the country’s first to celebrate the history of African American cuisine and the countless Black chefs, farmers and food and drink producers who have laid the foundation for American food culture, recognition that is long overdue. Ebony magazine and what was produced in its test kitchen is an important part of this legacy. In a 2017 interview about the test kitchen with WBEZ, architectural journalist Lee Bey said, “Ebony magazine used to have recipes, and if your mother cooked like mine did, she tried a recipe out of Ebony…So this kitchen has been responsible for millions of meals for millions of Black folks all over the African diaspora. For that alone, it should be preserved.” (Photo by Lee Bey)
Jean works for Booker and Dax, a small food equipment manufacturing company, and is also on the podcast, Cooking Issues. Prior to joining the Booker and Dax team, Jean worked as a cook in various restaurants around New York City, including Resto, The Breslin and Amali. He left NYC temporarily to pursue his graduate degree in art history at the University of Connecticut, where he focused on the intersection of the visual and culinary arts. He stayed there for a couple years and worked as an Adjunct Professor in the Art History Department as well as Curator at the William Benton Museum of Art, the state of Connecticut’s art museum. Most recently, Jean was the Culinary Operations Manager and Curator at the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), where he worked with chefs and scholars to help put together one-of-a-kind exhibitions.
Charla L. Draper
Charla L. Draper is a food professional who has stirred a few pots in her career. Her skill set includes positions in Fortune 500 corporations supporting leading consumer brands such as Miracle Whip, Velveeta, Butterball Turkey Hillshire Farms and Campbell Soup. Her talents aided her in landing jobs as Food Editor for Southern Living and Ebony magazines. When hired by Ebony publisher John H. Johnson, Draper was tasked with generating stronger reader interest in the food feature, “Date With a Dish.” The business goal was to build advertiser rapport and generate an increase in advertising sales from the food industry. Within one year of joining the Ebony family, food advertising had increased by 50 percent. From test kitchens to publishing to public relations, Draper’s culinary knowledge and marketing expertise were the basis for her to found National Soul Food Month, recognized in June. Draper is the owner of It’s Food Biz™, which provides marketing services for food and food–related products. Draper is also a writer, focusing on food history, food and food related topics. Her work includes: “Cooking on Nineteenth-Century Whaling Ships,” and contributions to “The Chicago Food Encyclopedia,” Cuisine Noir and The Midwesterner magazines. She earned a Master’s Degree in Marketing Communications from Roosevelt University (Chicago, IL) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Home Economics from Bradley University (Peoria, IL). She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, Chicago, Les Dames Escoffier International, the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) and the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Visit us on YouTube to watch past Preservation Snapshots Lectures!Past Preservation Snapshots Lectures