Rashe Malcolm has been an integral member of the Athens community for years. She runs the nonprofit organizations Farm to Neighborhood and the Culinary Kitchen of Athens.
In addition to her food activism, Malcolm serves Jamaican-inspired comfort food from her restaurant in East Athens and from her food truck. Malcolm discussed the influences on, and evolution of, her food.
The Red & Black: What are your influences?
Rashe Malcolm: I’m Jamaican American. I was born right here in this country and my grandmother was from the South. I now live in the South. So there are influences all the way around.
R&B: How did you decide which recipes to feature?
RM: My husband was born in Jamaica. He was actually born in Kingston, and they cook very different from the west side of Jamaica, which is where I have a lot of influence from my family. So it’s really a mix of our culture and just our formal training.
R&B: Did you grow up eating traditional Southern food?
RM: No. My mother raised us military. I grew up all over the world. Athens is the longest place I’ve lived in my entire life.
R&B: Did your mom make a lot of Caribbean food?
RM: Oh no, my mom didn’t cook. A lot of what I learned was either from watching my grandmother or other family members. But growing up military is what really influenced a lot of my food. That’s why my slogan is specializing in foods near and far. I mean, I lived in Spain most of my high school years, so Europe had an influence on me. You know, the Caribbean had an influence, the South had an influence, the North had an influence. My favorite food is seafood. So, when you take all of those combinations of things and then you decide what best you want to do.
R&B: Besides the family ties, did moving to the South have any other draws to you?
RM: Oh, I mean just now finding out not even a week ago that I had family that was born right here in Athens, Georgia, and owned businesses right here in Athens on land at a time when Blacks didn’t own land and have businesses. It feels like I’m coming full circle to who I’m supposed to be.
R&B: Has your food evolved?
RM: Oh, for sure. When we started off, we were so traditional. We had to teach people what the foods we were selling was. Because they had never had any exposure to Jamaica, and Jamaican culture. They didn’t know what a yam was. They thought it was a sweet potato. They didn’t know empanada, they didn’t know what plantains were, they just assumed and equated all of these things to the Southern food names that they recognize, and then got shocked because it was completely different.
R&B: How do you use ingredients that are in season?
RM: So we work with a lot of farmers markets because I have other organizations that focus on healthy and nutritional foods. Just as a culture, we were raised, you eat foods in season that’s how you’re best to your body. We really do try to focus on preparing specials that are in season versus having the same thing over and over again. And really encouraging other people to be more mindful of what fruits and vegetables are in season.
R&B: Do you hope more Jamaican and Caribbean restaurants open around Athens?
RM: As long as there are people who want to provide a service and to introduce the world to what they have to offer I say hey, the more the merrier.
This Q&A was has been edited for length and clarity.
This article was first published in The Red & Black’s spring 2022 Eat & Drink special publication.