Mashama Bailey is an American chef specializing in Southern cuisine. In 2019, Bailey was awarded a James Beard Award as best chef of the southeast.
Early life and education
Mashama Bailey was born to David and Catherine Bailey in the Bronx. She was the eldest of three with one sister and one brother. Bailey moved to Waynesboro, Georgia at the age of 2, Savannah, Georgia at 5, and then to Queens, New York when she was 11. Bailey learned to cook from her mother and grandmother. Bailey credits making snacks for her siblings while her parents worked as a basis of her appreciation of cooking.
After graduating from Francis Lewis High School, Bailey attended Sullivan County Community College where she studied physical therapy and later switched to social work. She worked at an after-school program at a homeless shelter but was fired on Christmas Eve in 1999. She then enrolled in the Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School and graduated in 2001.
Bailey started as a personal chef for several years that left some of her family concerned with the racial and class dynamics as it seemed a return to how her great grandmother migrated from Georgia to Manhattan and worked as a maid for the actor Art Carney.
She then studied at Château du Fey in Burgundy, France. While there she was mentored by Anne Willan who convinced her to continue cooking instead of food writing or blogging.
Venture capitalist John O. Morisano heard about Bailey through her mentor, chef Hamilton, and reached out to her about a long-abandoned, once Jim Crow segregated Greyhound station he’d bought in Savannah, Georgia. Across the street from the property is the Chatham County Courthouse where Bailey's parents were married in the 1960s. The restaurant, named The Grey, was nominated for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant.
On October 15, 2018, Morisano and Bailey opened The Grey Market in Savannah inspired by Southern lunch counters and New York City bodegas. Since 2017, Baily has served as chairwoman of the Edna Lewis Foundation, which works to "revive, preserve, and celebrate the rich history of African-American cookery by cultivating a deeper understanding of Southern food and culture in America."
- The Grey was named one of Food & Wine's best restaurants of 2019.
- Winner of the James beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast in 2019.
- In 2018, she was nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Southeast.
- The Grey was one of Food & Wine's best restaurants of 2015.
- The Grey was the 2017 Restaurant of the Year from Eater
- The Grey was chosen as one of the best 100 places in the world by Time in 2018.
She was a featured chef in the sixth season of Netflix's Chef's Table and was a guest on season 14, episode 6 of Top Chef.