Mashama Bailey and The Grey

Walk with Mashama Bailey, acclaimed chef and co-owner of Savannah’s The Grey restaurant, on her journey to authorhood ahead of her visit to the Port City.

Portrait of Mashama Bailey and Johno Morisano
Johno Morisano and Mashama Bailey, co-restaurateurs and, now, co-authors. Photo by Adam Kuehl

In his book “Black, White, and The Grey,” co-author Johno Morisano recounts approaching a “dilapidated, Jim Crow-era Greyhound bus terminal on the fringe of [Savannah, Georgia’s] Historic Downtown — the geographical line where the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ bump up against each other regularly.” Straining, he opens the decades-old doors, leading into a piece of history that’s unlike anything he’s seen before: an old, segregated lunch counter; a “colored” waiting room, restroom, and rear entrance; and a whole lot of history. He smiles, taking in what he hopes to turn into a restaurant like nothing Savannah has ever experienced — a restaurant known for delicious dishes, seasoned with a sprinkling of culture and grit. 

Mashama Bailey didn’t hesitate to jump onboard when Morisano called to ask her to be the chef at his restaurant-in-the-making, The Grey. “It was hardest in the beginning, it’s true,” Bailey states. “We worked in a diplomatic fashion.” After much brainstorming, Morisano and Bailey eventually found their footing, agreeing to celebrate “the good aspects of American culture while exposing and shedding light on the bad.” This is displayed in their menu: a combination of flavors intended to transport diners through Southern history, with its racial tensions and all.

Bailey’s work at The Grey has garnered national acclaim; her life and culinary journey were documented on Netflix’s “Chef’s Table,” and she’s the instructor of a brand new MasterClass. Add to that growing list of accolades a new book, “Black, White, and The Grey.” Much like their restaurant, the book explores racial and gender injustice through recipes and Southern ingredients. Morisano sets each scene, taking readers on a journey from his discovering what’s now The Grey restaurant to present day. Within each chapter, Bailey adds her voice to Morisano’s storytelling, resulting in a flavor-ridden novel. At the close of each chapter is a Bailey-original recipe, ending each deeply complex story with a satisfying taste.

Chicken Country Captain at The Grey. Photo by Chia Chong

To celebrate her co-authored novel and savory flavors, Bailey’s making an appearance at Southern National’s Chef’s Dinner in downtown Mobile on October 19. Owner Reggie Washington is pleased to welcome such a celebrated chef to town. “Johno and Mashama reached out to Southern National’s Chef Duane Nutter about cooking together. We are both excited to have the chance to cook alongside Mashama and spread the love of food to other Mobilians.” Along with a stellar dinner, each attendee will receive a copy of “Black, White, and The Grey.”

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According to Washington, “Chefs love to cook with one another — it’s a way for them to show the artistry of cooking. This is just one of the reasons we love to host Chef’s Dinner. We also know the heart of Mobile lies in its culinary scene; Mobilians love to celebrate together, especially through food!”

Because of this shared love of food and adoration for Bailey’s journey, Southern National is pulling out all the stops for this dinner, bringing in two of Atlanta’s most innovative bartenders, Greg Best and Paul Calvert, where they’ll serve wines and signature cocktails throughout the four-course Bailey meal.

But Bailey meals are more than food; they’re a vessel for the storytelling of hundreds of years of a deeply complex Southern heritage. In hers and Morisano’s book, readers explore life outside of their taste buds, delving into a transformation from run-down bus station to revolutionary cuisine. Each page leaves readers with a new take on a shared experience, as Bailey and Morisano share their heritage, their struggles and, ultimately, their success.

Note: Tickets to Mashama Bailey’s Chef’s Dinner at Southern National are SOLD OUT.

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