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Meet Andrew Black of Culinary Edge in Oklahoma City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrew Black.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Andrew. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Andrew Black is an acclaimed chef and restaurant operator whose humble start dates back to when he was growing up on subsistence homestead in Jamaica with his grandmother and three siblings. He first learned about foraging for produce and food and cooking under his grandmother’s tutelage. At age 14, he took a job as a kitchen porter at a local resort cleaning 18 refrigerators a day and juicing over 3,000 oranges a day. During this time, he lived in a changing room at the restaurant while his work expanded to include butchering and all around kitchen help. He worked at the resort without being paid, simply desiring a chance to learn and get a shot at cooking.

After two years, he was called into the human resources office to explain himself. He was rewarded with a paying job, but at the same time, he was asked to no more extended stay in the changing room.

After another year, the Jamaican government came up with a benefits program for hotels to choose employees to study abroad. Andrew Black was among the first chosen and he was enrolled in Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. He graduated with a degree in hotel management and culinary arts. He returned to Boscobell Resort, where he filled an obligation to continue his training and to work as the executive sous chef for two years. His journey continued with a two-year stint as executive sous chef at Turks and Caicos in British territory in the Caribbean.

After immigrating to the United States, he was hired as executive sous chef at the legendary Peabody Hotel, where he worked under five-star executive chef Andreas Kisler, a member of the James Beard Foundation. During this time, Black continued his studies with a stint at the Ritz in Paris, France.

As Oklahoma City prepared to reopen its historic Skirvin hotel in 2016, the owners, Marcus Hotels and Resorts, called on Black to take charge as executive chef. He successfully launched the Park Avenue Grill with a focus on cooking with locally grown produce and meats and other foods. He traveled around the state to visit with farmers, started a farmer’s market in the park across the street from the hotel, and published a book, “Foraging in Oklahoma” that shared stories of his travels and recipes created as a result of those visits.

Black has been a frequent guest on local and national television shows. After a few years at the Skirvin, Black was hired by Devon Energy Corp. to open a fine dining restaurant at the top of the company’s new 50-story headquarters as well as an upscale casual restaurant to anchor an adjoining hotel also owned by Devon.

Following up on these experiences, Black dedicated himself to opening his restaurants with partner Rudy Khouri, in Deep Deuce, Oklahoma City’s early day African American neighborhood.

Black now owns and operates three restaurants. LaBaguette is a French patisserie and bakery; Black Walnut, a restaurant with a unique menu that is sensory and flavor driven; and Grey Sweater, Black’s signature restaurant that features a three-tier tasting menu based on ingredients from around the world.

Please tell us about your work.
Grey Sweater, opened in 2019, draws from the life experience of Chef Andrew Black, whose journey in cooking dates back to his days growing up on a sustenance farm and then working his way up from juicing 3,000 oranges a day at a Jamaican resort to then working under acclaimed executive chef Andreas Kisler at the legendary Peabody Hotel. Along the way, he grew familiar with produce, meats, dairy, spices and ingredients found around the world and in his new home state of Oklahoma.

Grey Sweater draws on all of these experiences, including foraging for foods both as a child growing up in Jamaica and then as an adult learning that Oklahoma was filled with far more than cattle and wheat. His experiences also included working at chef’s tables at the Ritz in Paris, France.

Grey Sweater is the result of six years of meticulous planning that dates back to when Black started his first job in Oklahoma City as executive chef with the historic Skirvin Hilton Hotel. In 2009, he started a chef’s table, then an unheard-of concept in Oklahoma City, and gained a strong following.

Black returns with the chef’s table at Grey Sweater, where guests arrive at the front door of a salvaged 1920s filing station facade that takes on the appearance of a country cottage.

Guests are quickly greeted as if they are visiting Black’s home. The decor is global, with lights custom made with refurbished fixtures from a London train station, Italian chandelier, custom made chairs, tables and furnishings curated by award-winning Henderson Designs in Dallas. There are no menus, only trust in Black’s hospitality and his team, who promise not just a culinary world tour but a performance to match.

The stage is an array of props that include a combi oven, induction ranges, French tops, all custom built into a French-style suite. Everything is transparent. A top the stoves is a line up of Mauviel cookware and at the cap of this set-up is a bookcase show casing literature from some of the finest chefs and schools in the world.

Under each counter, guests see the carefully selected glassware and plates, some of which were ordered from Indonesia and Paris, an array of spices, and trays of planted micro herbs cut fresh for every meal. Sparing no shortcuts, the kitchen also has an extensive fermentation program.

The menu is based on the availability of sustainable foods. Guests can choose from a three-tiered tasting menu with stand-out dishes ranging from oysters to asparagus, wild boar and even a grilled cheese at the highest level to Indonesian spot prawns. Every part of the meal is performance. The cocktail and beverage program begins with a glass floor to ceiling display of 75 different wines, again from around the world. The restaurant’s sommelier purposely selected many of the wines from small vineyards in Napa Valley, New Zealand, France, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The cocktail program also is based on the menu, changing with the flavors featured each night. The ingredient-driven beverages include the use of spices and foods offered on each plate, ranging from beets, buzz buttons, and Oklahoma’s first CBD-infused cocktails.

The coffees are made with beans from Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador and are brought into Oklahoma exclusively for Grey Sweater guests. Each coffee is delivered with an array of bakery sweets on a cart, and the coffee is brewed in a siphon tableside for each guest. The coffees come with accouterments including an array of spices, sugars, sweaters and diary.

The water served to patrons also are from around the globe, ranging from glacier from Canada to spring water in the United States to refreshments from Denmark to Spain.

All of the preparation and attention to details come together in an intimate visit with Black and his team of chefs as they share stories about each dish and perform in the kitchen that is a part of the guests’ experience.

The chefs represent a mix of global experiences. The executive sous chef, Corey Orsburn, is a native Oklahoman who’s experience in the U.S. Marine Corps took him to countries, where he dined globally and fell in love in cooking. Sous chef Jared Wilson draws from experiences that included running smaller local restaurants from Oklahoma to Colorado and a leadership background playing college football.

The team works like an orchestra conducted by Black, consisting of no wasted movements. Grey Sweater may be a new restaurant, but guests comment the team seems as if they’ve been together for years.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Meeting the right people has definitely played a part in the good luck department.

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