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National tour planned for historic Ebony test kitchen

The Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, N.Y. will feature the kitchen as part of its exhibit, “African/American: Making the Nation’s Table.”

Ebony test kitchen
The Ebony test kitchen in the Johnson Publishing Co. building was preserved and put in storage after the building was sold.
Lee Bey Architectural Photography/Landmarks Illinois

Chicago’s historic Ebony Test Kitchen will head off on a national tour in 2020.

Landmarks Illinois has accepted a proposal from the Museum of Food and Drink to feature the Ebony Test Kitchen as part of its exhibit, African/American: Making the Nation’s Table.

The Ebony Test Kitchen was previously housed in the Johnson Publishing Company building and was used to test food recipes published in Ebony Magazine.

After the Johnson Publishing building was sold, Landmarks Illinois purchased the kitchen for one dollar in 2018 from the developer. The kitchen has been stored since then.

The exhibition, led by author Jessica B. Harris, will celebrate the impact of African American cuisine. Harris has written 12 cookbooks documenting African foods and the cooking of the African diaspora.

“For many African Americans who lived in the second half of the 20th century, Ebony was a touchstone that inspired, informed and defined,” Harris said in a statement issued by Landmarks Illinois.

Volunteers remove cabinets from the Ebony test kitchen.
Volunteers remove cabinets from the Ebony test kitchen.
Lewis Purdy/Landmarks Illinois

The preservation group received multiple offers for the kitchen, but the food and drink museum was the perfect fit, said Lisa DiChiera, Landmarks’ director of advocacy.

“The museum is exploring the cultural impact of African American cuisine and this kitchen is reflective of that,” DiChiera said. “Ebony Magazine was present in many African American homes and every recipe printed happened in this kitchen.”

No timeline or touring schedule has been released; the museum must raise the money first.

Landmarks Illinois hopes to help the museum find the kitchen a permanent home after the tour, DiChiera said.

The unused Ebony test kitchen
The unused Ebony test kitchen was removed from the Johnson Publishing Co. building in 2018.
Lewis Purdy/Landmarks Illinois