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Chef Mariya Russell: What It’s Like to Be First

Chef Mariya Russel, stands proudly and smiles
Mariya Russell | Credit: Nick Fochtman / Eater

Eater recently celebrated Mariya Russell, the first black female chef to head a Michelin-starred restaurant. She’s the chef de cuisine of Chicago cocktail bar Kumiko and its sister omakase concept, Kikko. She’s a big deal.

An intimate, candle-lit bar with just 10 seats, dining at Kikko is a warm and interactive experience, in true omakase fashion. The restaurant was awarded one Michelin star in September, just two days before Russell turned 30.

In an industry that systematically undervalues people of color and black women, this recognition is historic. We echo mixologist Julia Momose, Kumiko and Kikko’s creative director and partner, in her sentiment regarding Russell’s place in history: “It’s insane that it’s 2019 and that’s only happening now. But it’s also insanely amazing that it’s Mariya because I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.”

Read more about Russell’s achievements and how this milestone has changed her life.

And check out more amazing firsts from women in foodservice, here.

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