Celebrating Black Inventors Who Changed the Foodservice Industry
Celebrating Black Inventors Who Changed the Foodservice Industry
February 21, 2024

In honor of Black History Month, we applaud all inventors who have significantly contributed to the foodservice industry with their innovations. We would like to highlight a few of them by sharing a couple of the inventions that have made lasting impacts on the foodservice and culinary worlds. 

1. Norbert Rillieux, an engineer and inventor from New Orleans revolutionized sugar refining with his invention of the multiple-effect evaporator under vacuum. His technology created a safer, more efficient, and reasonable process, which had a profound effect on the global sugar industry. 

2. George Crum, a chef of African American and Native American heritage, is credited with the invention of the potato chip in 1853. While at Moon's Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, a customer complained that Crum's French fries were too thick. In response, Crum sliced the potatoes as thinly as possible, fried them until crisp, and salted them, creating what would become one of the most popular snacks worldwide. Slicing potatoes thinly and uniformly became an easier task with the invention of commercial slicers much later. For example, Globe offers the widest selection of best-in-class slicers on the market, from a 9” economy slicer to a 13” frozen automatic; and frying with minimal staff requirements and prep time.

3. With over 60 patents, Frederick McKinley Jones’s most significant contribution to the foodservice industry was the invention of portable air-cooling units for trucks and railroad cars. Introduced in the 1930s, this technology allowed for safe, long-distance transport of perishable goods, which changed the food logistics industry, by making fresh produce more widely available year-round. Out of Jones’s 60 patents, 40 were refrigeration solutions, paving the way for manufacturers such as the ones you see today; ColdZone, Federal, and Thermo-Kool offer walk-in coolers and freezers, refrigerated display cases, condensing units, and more.

George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist and inventor who developed methods to prevent soil depletion, as well as hundreds of products using peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans.

4. Joseph Lee made his mark in the food industry by inventing machinery that automated the bread and breadcrumb making process. His inventions greatly impacted the baking industry by improving efficiency and hygiene in bread production and reducing waste and labor costs. Manufacturers such as Varimixer, the first manufacturer to produce mixers from easy-to-clean stainless steel, continue to focus on improved hygiene and durability today. Varimixer bakery mixers allow you to mix a variety of dough types, batter, icing, and cream. With the addition of extra tools, these mixers can also be used to slice vegetables, chop meat, and grate cheese, which allows offering a more innovative menu. 

5. Alexander Ashbourne, born right here in Philadelphia, is known for inventing the biscuit cutter in the late 1800’s. At the time, chefs and bakers had to use knives to manually cut individual pieces of dough, which resulted in inefficiency and inconsistency. Ashbourne designed and patented a biscuit cutter so bakers could produce large quantities of biscuits or cookies quickly and uniformly. 

6. Augustus Jackson, another Philly native, deserves major recognition for developing an ice cream manufacturing technique that is still used today. Jackson’s technique consisted of adding salt to the ice, mixing it with new flavors and cream. The salt enhanced the flavor and lowered the temperature of the ice cream allowing it to be kept colder for a longer time, which benefited the packaging and shipping the packing and shipping process. 

Through creativity and innovation, these inventors have left an indelible mark on the foodservice industry. From improving food production efficiency to the quality and availability of food to consumers, their legacies continue to influence modern culinary practices. During Black History Month, we are reminded of the importance of innovation these pioneers have had in shaping the foodservice industry we know today.

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