Welcome to Black History 365, a series where I explain, educate, and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide.
You ever wonder how that crispy Lays or Pringles chip came into existence? Well not those brands per se but the potato chip that would influence those brands and their distinct flavors, well in this entry of Black History 365 I will spotlight the man acknowledged as the perfecter of the potato chip.
When it comes to the potato chip there are a few stories about the invention of it, but the most reliable ones center around George Crum, a famous black chef in the 19th century. Crum served the wealthiest Americans and went on to open his own widely successful restaurant.
Born George Speck around 1824 to a Native American mother and African American father, he worked as a hunter and guide in upper New York state. During his time doing that, his reputation as a cook earned him a position at Moon’s Lake House restaurant on Saratoga Lake where wealthy New England patrons built their summer camps. Furthermore, he became famous for his unique specialty in venison and wild game which gave him more opportunities to expand his work in the kitchen.
The Potato Chip
There were recipes for potato chips published in cookbooks decades prior to 1850, but no one is certainly sure who invented the chip, some claim that it was Crum’s sister, working at the same restaurant. Either way, what is certain is that it was Crum’s experimentation that led to the refinement and popularization of chips, which became a local and regional draw for all New England.
Crum had wealthy patrons that included ultra – rich Cornelius Vanderbilt, who mistakenly called him “Crum” instead of Speck, which Crum strategically embraced. As time went on Crum used his success to open his restaurant in 1860 called “Crum’s”, with very high demand and high-priced cuisine.
Despite his wealthy clients, Crum showed no nepotism and was expressively egalitarian with his food. He would make the rich wait their turn behind anyone in front of them regardless of that person’s financial status. Crum went on to serve as an inspiration for numerous young Black men and women to explore their skills and creativity in culinary.
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