In a world of culinary giants and famous food brands, there's a rising star whose mission goes beyond simply tantalizing taste buds. Kimberly Parris, a celebrity chef from Brooklyn, New York, is on a crusade to change the snacking game and give underrepresented faces, and the tastes they create, a chance to shine bright. ’Cuterie is not just about delicious snacks — it’s a powerful movement aiming to bridge the gap of diversity in the culinary space. “Throughout my career, I became an unintentional trailblazer, in that I was almost always the only Black woman chef in the restaurants I worked for,” says Parris, a chef of 12 years who has fired dishes and managed operations inside NYC Italian food mecca Eataly. Even surrounded by some of the culinary scene’s best, something was amiss: Parris often felt like a fleck of pepper in a sea of salt. There, “I became the first Black woman chef de cuisine they’d ever had — and I realized that my experience could not possibly be unique.”
The culinary industry, like many others, has long struggled with diversity and representation. Statistics on the lack of diversity in the culinary world reveal a stark reality: According to a 2020 report by the James Beard Foundation, out of the 424 semifinalists in the Restaurant and Chef Awards over three years, only 16 were Black. This underrepresentation goes beyond recognition and extends to opportunity and mentorship. A study by the Pew Research Center found that while Black and Hispanic workers make up nearly 40% of the overall restaurant workforce, they occupy only 17% of management positions.
“Our five-year vision is to be a part of bridging the equity gap in snack and prepared food businesses,” says Parris. “The biggest part of achieving this goal is by providing a safe space for BIPOC and women-owned businesses to receive assistance in starting and scaling their businesses.”
With a passion for authenticity, Parris set out on a journey to discover hidden culinary gems owned by people of color. Researching and seeking out unique products, she compiled a list of over 150 vendors — individuals and brands with extraordinary offerings ranging from banana pudding to spice blends and sauces. For too long, many of these talented entrepreneurs were a mere blip on the public radar. ’Cuterie plans to change all of that.
With ’Cuterie, Parris endeavors to level the playing field. Every ’Cuterie box serves as a platform for spotlighting and supporting Black women-owned businesses and businesses from other people of color. The boxes not only bring delectable snacks to consumers, but also foster a sense of community and inclusivity. The entrepreneurs’ smiling Black and brown faces are front and center on ’Cuterie’s Featured Founders blog and their products like stuffed cookies and handmade jams and mocktails are cheerily packaged inside an array of ’Cuterie’s banana-yellow boxes.
Parris’ culinary journey is equal parts a testament to her love for food and her roots. Growing up in a lively Caribbean household — her mom hails from Barbados, and her dad, Trinidad — she was immersed in a rich tapestry of flavors and aromas. Rotis ready for the ripping were dipped and dredged in spicy curries, a nod to that Trini essence. Flying fish and cou cou and macaroni pie? A rib-sticking Bajan dinnertime staple. Through those soulful and satisfying family meals, Parris learned the true essence of unconditional love and connection. Before stepping into the culinary world, Parris was a writer and educator. When she wasn’t publishing poems and stories, she worked with at-risk high schoolers. But life took an unexpected turn when her precocious young daughter asked her a life-changing question: “Are you following your dreams like you always told me to?” She soon signed up for culinary school.
In culinary school, she was thrilled to see that her classmates were fairly diverse both in gender and race, but not so thrilled to encounter an all-white male roster of teachers. Lots of micro aggressions on that menu. “I remember one professor was direct in doubting my ability to succeed in a high-end dining world because of my determination even when faced with discrimination. Then, at the end of my practical, the instructor was shocked when I had the second-best practical score in the program, and how my work was indeed high-end dining level. He even commented on it.” And Parris isn’t done proving him, or any other naysayers, how wrong they are.
Her journey in the food industry has been nothing short of extraordinary. Working with esteemed chefs like Rocco DiSpirito and making appearances on Food Network’s Chopped showcased her culinary prowess. After she hung up her apron, Parris says the idea for ’Cuterie was born from a casual text conversation with a friend, where they humorously discussed “fancifying” simple things.
“I said, ‘You know something? That’s actually … a really good idea … and then maybe, all of the sides or the snacks in the box could be from Black-owned businesses.’”
With ’Cuterie, Kimberly is redefining what it means to snack in style. Each ’Cuterie box is a carefully curated showcase of extraordinary products that embody her core values of authenticity, flavor, and inclusivity.
As you delve into a ’Cuterie box, you’re not just indulging in delicious snacks; you’re also partaking in a movement for a more flavorful and equitable future.