One of the Millions's Most Anticipated Books of 2021
America’s modern culinary history told through the lives of seven pathbreaking chefs and food writers.
Who’s really behind America’s appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexican-born Elena Zelayeta, a blind chef; Marcella Hazan, the deity of Italian cuisine; and Norma Shirley, a champion of Jamaican dishes.
In imaginative, lively prose, Mayukh Sen—a queer, brown child of immigrants—reconstructs the lives of these women in vivid and empathetic detail, daring to ask why some were famous in their own time, but not in ours, and why others shine brightly even today. Weaving together histories of food, immigration, and gender, Taste Makers will challenge the way readers look at what’s on their plate—and the women whose labor, overlooked for so long, makes those meals possible.
About the Author
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard and IACP Award–winning writer based in Brooklyn. His work has been anthologized in two editions of The Best American Food Writing. He teaches food journalism at New York University.
Taste Makers introduced me to the life stories of extraordinary women and offered me an invigorating history of cooking—as life's purpose, as pleasure, as political act—in America. Mayukh Sen writes with great heart and a spirit of vibrant inquiry to give us a magnificent book.
— Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning
Reading Taste Makers is a lot like enjoying an amazing meal: It surprises you, fills you, and you're sorry when it's over. Mayukh Sen has crafted something truly special, a book where women's stories take center stage.
— Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object: A Memoir
Mayukh Sen isn't the first to write about women who made significant cultural contributions while being undervalued during their lifetimes, and even more so in death. But he does it in such a way as to make you think he might be the first. He is acutely aware of the cliches that have come to inhibit the genre, and he both challenges and upends them.
— Charlotte Druckman, editor of Women on Food
A gathering of voices that's altogether necessary, radical, heartfelt, and intimate.
— Monique Truong, author of The Book of Salt
A fascinating and impeccably researched book. Taste Makers is a joyous celebration of the cooks whose lives have enriched so much of our cooking and eating.
— Nigel Slater
A beautiful, engaging, and long-overdue book, one which highlights some of the best-known and most influential cooks of the recent past as well as some whose names are not as familiar but should be. An invaluable book that’s also a pleasure to read.
— Mark Bittman, author of Animal, Vegetable, Junk
Taste Makers is beautiful. Mayukh makes the American kitchen feel vast, interconnected and full of wonder – never insular, small-minded or cold – and weaves together these undertold stories with unmatched care and respect. He's a masterful chronicler of American cooks and cooking, and we're lucky to have this book.
— Ruby Tandoh, author of Eat Up!
Through meticulous research and broad insight, Mayukh Sen follows seven immigrant women who crashed the gates of the U.S. food establishment in the twentieth century. Taste Makers is essential history for understanding American food’s current reckoning with inclusion and diversity.
— John Birdsall, author of The Man Who Ate Too Much
In this dazzling debut, James Beard Award–winning food writer Sen looks at the lives of seven remarkable immigrant women whose passion for their homeland’s food transformed how Americans cook and eat... A vibrant, empathetic, and dynamic exploration of culture, identity, race, and gender... Thoughtfully written, Sen’s portrayals of his subjects reveal how rich and nuanced being 'American' can truly be. Food lovers with a big appetite for knowledge will gobble this up.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The James Beard Award-winning Sen profiles groundbreaking chefs who have revolutionized the American food scene, from Mexico-born Elena Zelayeta; to Norma Shirley, who champions Jamaican cuisine; to Marcella Hazan, the diva of Italian cooking.
— Library Journal
Making a lively book debut, James Beard Award–winning journalist Sen, who teaches food journalism at NYU, celebrates the accomplishments of seven immigrant women who defiantly introduced new tastes, ingredients, and recipes to their adopted country...Well-crafted, engaging portraits of culinary and cultural pioneers.