Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America

Who’s really behind America’s appetite for foods from around the globe? This group biography from an electric new voice in food writing honors seven extraordinary women, all immigrants, who left an indelible mark on the way Americans eat today. Taste Makers stretches from World War II to the present, with absorbing and deeply researched portraits of figures including Mexican-born Elena Zelayeta, a blind chef; Marcella Hazan, the deity of Italian cuisine; and Norma Shirley, a champion of Jamaican dishes.

In imaginative, lively prose, Mayukh Sen—a queer, brown child of immigrants—reconstructs the lives of these women in vivid and empathetic detail, daring to ask why some were famous in their own time, but not in ours, and why others shine brightly even today. Weaving together histories of food, immigration, and gender, Taste Makers will challenge the way readers look at what’s on their plate—and the women whose labor, overlooked for so long, makes those meals possible.

Praise for Taste Makers

Through his seven portraits, Sen restores a missing part of American culinary history, drawing on interviews, reviews and menus to create a compelling story about the love of food, the pull of the tastes of one’s homeland, the delicious pleasure of sharing the richness and complexity of your most cherished recipes with strangers at your table.

—Nilanajana Roy, Financial Times

A beautiful, engaging, and long-overdue book, one which highlights some of the best-known and most influential cooks of the recent past as well as some whose names are not as familiar but should be. An invaluable book that’s also a pleasure to read.

—Mark Bittman, author of Animal, Vegetable, Junk

About the Author

Mayukh Sen is a James Beard and IACP Award–winning writer based in Brooklyn. His work has been anthologized in two editions of The Best American Food Writing. He teaches food journalism at New York University. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter.