Orange County’s own famed chef Edna Lewis is being honored with her own stamp in the company of other culinary greats like Julia Child.
The United States Postal Service Friday will issue its first ever “Celebrity Chefs” Forever stamps, featuring in addition to Lewis and Child, chefs James Beard, Joyce Chen and Felipe Rojas-Lombardi.
The so-called “Grand Dame of Southern Cooking,” Lewis (1916-2006) was born in Freetown in the Unionville area of Orange County. She was one of eight children and the granddaughter of an emancipated slave who helped found the community where she lived.
Central to Lewis’ upbringing was food in all of its natural phases – growing, foraging, harvesting and cooking.
“Without any modern cooking conveniences – everything was cooked over wood and, lacking measuring spoons, baking powder was measured on coins – food preparation called on creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity,” according to The Edna Lewis Foundation.
Lewis is among the culinary idols of world famous chef Patrick O’Connell, proprietor at the Inn at Little Washington in Rappahannock County. He said Wednesday that she was a true American culinary pioneer.
“All of us here at the Inn at Little Washington are delighted that this wonderful woman and Virginia native is being honored and remembered with the United States Postage stamp,” he said. “We always loved the fact that Edna claimed she never left home without a bottle of Chanel No. 5 and small mason jar of bourbon in her purse.”
Lewis authored three cookbooks including “The Taste of Country Cooking,” and operated a restaurant, Cafe Nicholoson, in New York City cooking for the likes of Marlon Brando, Howard Hughes, Salvador Dali and Eleanor Roosevelt.
“By bringing such quintessential dishes as shrimp and grits and roast chicken to the plates of trendy restaurants, Edna Lewis showed her fellow Americans the vitality of Southern cooking,” according to the USPS.
The five chefs honored on the stamps revolutionized the understanding of food, the postal service said in a release.
“Seeing cooking as a source of delight, they invited us to feast on regional and international flavors and were early, but ardent champions of trends that many foodies now take for granted,” the post office said. “As they shared their know-how, they encouraged us to undertake our own culinary adventures.”
The USPS will host an unveiling for the Celebrity Chef stamps Friday in Chicago at Park Grill Restaurant.
Edna Lewis’ sister, Ruth Lewis Smith, told the Orange County Review that she was overjoyed at the news of the stamp.
“It’s just awesome to have someone in the family and a black person on a stamp for the chefs,” Smith said. “Edna always loved to cook. She was fascinated by preparing foods that her parents and grandparents cooked when we were children, but she knew how to cook everything.”
Smith will attend Friday’s unveiling in Chicago.
Orange County Review reporter Amber Galaviz contributed to this report.