Black History Month Feature: Adrian Jones, Owner of Kennedy’s Kakes

Baking is an art form that has been changing and expanding for thousands of years. The Egyptians used emmer to make “flatbread” almost 5,000 years ago. During the 2nd century, Greeks were baking different types of bread to offer to the gods and to eat as a staple food. The Greeks would eventually pass the baton off to the Romans, who would shape baking into a practice suited for large-scale industries. Veneti reports, “There were dozens of different types of loaves depending on the time of the day, the occasion, and individual taste…the first professional bakeries were set up in Rome during the reign of Emperor Trajan in 97-117 A.D.”

Back then fruits, nuts, and honey were added to baking goods to enhance their flavor. Food Timeline explains, “According to the food historians, the precursors of modern cakes were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century. This is due to primarily to advances in technology and ingredient availability.” Cake making really became popular during the 18th century with the rise of the Industrial Revolution. Nonetheless, African Americans have also left their mark within the American food industry.

Adrian Jones, “The Cake Diva,” has been baking for years and is an expert cake baker/designer. She is the owner of Kennedy’s Kakes, a bakery based in Columbus, Ohio. Baking to her has been a huge part of life due to her family background. “My mother was a great influencer of my baking, my grandmother as well. My mom is the reason I started baking. For most of my traditional cakes I use my mom’s recipes,” she says. Jones loves to bake with her daughter because of the relationship between her and her mother in the kitchen; her love of baking stems from watching her mother. Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 9.30.05 PM.png

Kennedy’s Kakes was established in 2009 and is named after Jones’s own daughter, Kennedy Nicole Goolsby. Along with Jones, there have been many African Americans who have influenced how we see the culinary world today. One individual, Joseph Lee, was a Boston native and entrepreneur. According to Invent.org, “Joseph Lee was a pioneer in the automation of bread and bread crumb making during the late 1800s. He invented machines for use in the hospitality industry that automated the mixing and kneading of bread dough and that created crumbs from day-old loaves.” Other influencers include James Hemings (1765-1801), a slave who became a master chef and culinary innovator with French-American cuisine. “He influenced generations of plantations cooks and black professional caterers, who were key to establishing fine dining in America,” says the James Hemings Foundation.

Both free and enslaved blacks were becoming chefs in the American South from the 1600s-1800s. Catering in the 1900s helped many black communities succeed financially, and continuing through the late 1900s to 2000s blacks used food and baking as a means of social support as well. According to First We Feast, “The Great Migration led to the creation of black restaurants catering to Southern migrants from the Northeast to the Midwest and West Coast… Multiculturalism, Afrocentricism, and the gains of the Civil Rights movement led to a new generation of black chefs better equipped to contest the gentrification of America’s food scene.” JosephLee_Baking.jpg

Joseph Lee and his invention

 

Jones has developed Kennedy’s Kakes as a black-owned business built on 10 years of focus on a great relationship with customers and the ultimate cake experience. She believes too few businesses have relationships with their customers. “On almost every order, I build a relationship so I can get to know them and provide the type of dessert that they are looking for. With Kennedy’s Kakes, it’s not just ordering a cake, it’s an experience. So I try to create the best experience possible.”

Jones feels delighted when seeing images or videos of customers unveiling special occasion cakes that were made by her. Aside from customer relationships, she believes it’s important to have black-owned businesses for many reasons, including the need for support. Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 9.38.54 PM.png

Despite the evolution of black women-owned businesses in America, especially with millennials being the fire starters of many of these companies, the revenue gap is a huge issue. The Black Enterprise states, “As of 2018, African American women-owned businesses earned average revenues that equate to poverty levels within the United States, producing a meager annual revenue of $24,700 vs. $143,100 among all women-owned businesses.” Not only is it hard enough running a black-owned business, it is especially difficult doing so while being a woman of color.

Jones emphasizes the importance of teaching black children and youth that it’s very possible to succeed. “We as a people like to emulate what we see and what we think is attractive and becoming.” Ultimately showing children that they can be in charge, run businesses, and be successful will help them strive for greatness.

Visit Adrian Jones’ website here and her Instagram here.