Explore

Meet Whitney Thomas: One Of The Only Black Woman Executive Chefs In Fine Dining

By DeAnna Taylor

Share

For centuries, little Black girls around the world have spent time watching and learning from their mothers and grandmothers in the kitchen. Many develop the skill early in life that grows with them as they too become adults.

That was the case for Chef Whitney Thomas.

The Reidsville, North Carolina native attributes her love for cooking to her grandmother, who she affectionately calls “Muh.”

Photo courtesy of Coopernicus Photos © All rights reserved 2018

“My family setting is where I really developed my passion for cooking,” Chef Whitney told Travel Noire. “We were the stereotypical Black family with the large Sunday dinners. At 3 years old I was in the kitchen mimicking my grandma.”

However, life would take a different turn before Chef Whitney could really dive back into her love for the kitchen.

She went on to attend The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she majored in African American studies and Exercise Sports Science. By the end of her Junior year, she realized this wasn’t what she wanted to do, so she left school.

Photo courtesy of Coopernicus Photos © All rights reserved 2018

“The kitchen had always called me. My mom thought I was crazy to give up my full ride to college, but that wouldn’t help me do what I wanted to do.”

Whitney began working in small eateries around her college town. At one point she was even delivering pizzas.

After getting into a bad accident, she made her way back to Reidsville, which also allowed her to help care for her grandmother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Photo courtesy of Coopernicus Photos © All rights reserved 2018

After some time, Chef Whitney picked up a job at a local soul food spot. From there she moved up the ladder of several chains, but her goal was always to get into fine dining.

“I’m not classically trained, I didn’t go to culinary school at all. I just had some really great chefs that took time with me and taught me things. I also used my environment to learn more and just soaked up everything,” she said.

Related: How These Young Black Men Overcame The Odds To Become Two Of Charlotte’s Top Black Chefs

Photo courtesy of Coopernicus Photos © All rights reserved 2018

After bouncing around some more, she made her way to Charlotte, NC. She instantly knew this was where she wanted to be.

“The food scene here is really great and it was growing. It had more to offer than where I was in Winston Salem.”

She again worked her way up the ranks in a few fine dining restaurants around the city before making her way to 5Church Charlotte. In less than a year, she was named Executive Chef, an accomplishment that isn’t common for Black women.

“Less than 10% of executive chefs are women. And even fewer are Black women. It’s very humbling. I feel like I have so much to prove. Not only that I can do it, but we can do it. But I want people to see, just give us a chance.”

Photo courtesy of Coopernicus Photos © All rights reserved 2018

“I once had a manager tell me he didn’t like hiring women because we’re run by emotions. But women have been in the kitchen since we were small.”

Chef Whitney doesn’t let any of this stop her.

“I just keep working and show what I’m capable of.”

In this role as Executive Chef, Chef Whitney oversees all things in the kitchen. From menu creation to managing the kitchen staff and budget, as well as planning special events. She’s really doing it all.

As she continues to take 5Church Charlotte to the next level, she has her eyes set on her own restaurant one day in the future. And best believe, once she does, you’ll want to be in the building.

To catch more from Chef Whitney, check her out on Instagram: @chefwhitneythomas.


Share
Travel Noire

DeAnna Taylor

DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.

Want more?

Get exclusive, unpublished tips from Travel Noire's CEO to help you get off the beaten path, into the hearts of locals and onto a better, more cultured life.

This Black-Owned Bike And Brunch Company Highlights Historical Neighborhoods

This Black-Owned Bike And Brunch Company Highlights Historical Neighborhoods

It’s time to get active and learn a little bit of Black history while also supporting Black-Owned businesses. Thanks to Bike and Brunch Tours, you can do all three within a few hours time. Owner LaKeisha Henderson has always been aligned with the community and wanted to pay it forward. Her parents always reminded her […]

DeAnna Taylor

An American Airlines Flight Attendant May Have Exposed Passengers To Hepatitis A On Flight To Charlotte

An American Airlines Flight Attendant May Have Exposed Passengers To Hepatitis A On Flight To Charlotte

Over a dozen people have been potentially exposed to Hepatitis A on a recent flight say health officials in North Carolina. On October 1st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was notified that a flight attendant had contracted the disease. The CDC wrote in a statement saying, “Because the flight attendant had diarrhea on […]

Kelsey Marie / Charlotte, San Francisco

Flight Deal: Charlotte To Seychelles Only $752

Flight Deal: Charlotte To Seychelles Only $752

Queen City and surrounding areas, gather your coins accordingly. One of the hottest African destinations is on sale from Charlotte, and who knows when we will see this again. This is at least a $400 savings. Delta Airlines and a few of its affiliates have dropped fares to as low as $752 roundtrip. This deal […]

DeAnna Taylor