Chef Gregory Collier is the First Charlotte Chef to Be Named a James Beard Finalist
Now, in just a few weeks, Chef Greg will head to Chicago to see if he will be named the James Beard Foundation’s best chef in the southeast— the first chef in history from Charlotte to advance to the final round. This isn’t the first time Collier has been recognized by the foundation, in fact, it’s his third nomination for the honor overall.
“It is amazing to be the first Charlotte chef to make it to this round,” Collier told EBONY. “It speaks to the work that the chefs have done in this city to increase our culinary recognition! Subrina and I have been doing this for 10 years. We opened the restaurant that speaks to who we are in 2020— in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve curated spaces for Black culinarians for a while and last year put on the first Black centric food and wine festival, BayHaven Food and Wine Festival. It’s the culmination of 10 years of work and sacrifice.”
While this recognition speaks volumes to Collier’s talents and the mark he and his wife are making on the culinary industry, the couple’s backstory and what they are doing for up-and-coming Black culinary professionals says even more.
Meet the Colliers
Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, the couple moved to Charlotte to open their soon-to-relaunch breakfast restaurant, The Yolk, just across the border in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 2012.
Over the last decade, they’ve hosted dozens of upscale dinners and events, opened their modern-day juke joint concept, Leah & Louise, rolled out the BayHaven Food and Wine Festival, and most recently Chef Greg was named Executive Chef of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport’s American Express Centurion Lounge.
But, the true essence of the Colliers lies in what they do for young, Black chefs and mixologists.
Knowing the struggles that many Black men and women face when trying to break into the industry, the couple has voluntarily taken many of Charlotte’s— and the country’s— aspiring Black and brown talents under their wings.
Whether training and staffing them in their restaurants or inviting them to participate in Soul Food Sessions— a pop-up dinner series hosted by the couple around the country— chef Greg and Subrina are creating economic empowerment through community development, and facilitating opportunities for other Black professionals along the way. And they do it all while remaining unapologetically Black.
“To quote the legendary Andre 3 stacks, ‘the souf got something to say,’” Greg said. “It’s important for young Black chefs to see a pathway in our industry. We often see the next cool white dude getting this type of recognition. But, what’s dope is that we are cooking Black food in a space that honors Memphis, our hometown, while playing Black music with a majority Black staff. Me making it here means that authenticity matters!”
What’s next for BayHaven Restaurant Group
Starting the group with a small loan from Subrina’s stepfather, the couple believes this latest recognition by the James Beard Foundation will not only propel them into the now, but, the future, too. They want to expand BayHaven to its full potential and hopefully open doors for other culinarians that are growing in the “grassroots” way as well.
“I have always felt Subrina is my connection to GOD, the universe, the other plan— whatever etheric existence. She is pregnant with our first baby, a girl, Seleah Monique Collier. We plan to create a better ecosystem for her to thrive in. We have Uptown Yolk re-opening in South End this summer and four concepts— Passage Seafood, The Abyss speakeasy, Bird is the Word, and Beyond Amazing Donuts— opening in Camp North End this fall. We are also looking at other cities for expansion.”
It’s no doubt that the city of Charlotte is proud of the Colliers and the impact they are making. You can guarantee they will have the city behind them as they look to bring home such a prestigious title.