She grew up in Illinois but you can hear a trace of Charleston in her accent. Chef Kimberly Brock Brown is pleased, even proud, to know that she wears the influence of her adopted hometown. “I barely notice the accent but others do,” she laughs. However, she is also quick to confess that Charleston has been more influential in her growth as a leader in the culinary industry.
Immersion in the city’s food culture and network was, in part, responsible for Brown being the first African American woman elected to the board of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) in 2017. Brown is the vice-president of the organization’s Southeast Region, representing eight Southeastern states, as well as The Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
As the leader of the second largest region of ACF, she is tasked with everything from communicating job opportunities, facilitating continuing education, certifications, and increasing the membership in her region. Currently, there are over 3,700 members in ACF’s SE region, which is growing to include chapters in Guam, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guatemala.
“I enjoy the privilege of traveling to meet culinary students and emerging professionals in my region and in other parts of the world,” says Brown. “Seeing someone like me inspires them and gives them a sense of confidence in ACF’s commitment to inclusion.”
Her sense of leadership does not seem to sleep. Back at home in Charleston, Brown is active in community endeavors as she runs her catering business. The pastry chef also has private clients who call on her to bake for events and other occasions. “Sometimes I take cookies to a local political meeting,” she says.
Last year, she was invited to join Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, an international gastronomic society. Brown was invited into and sponsored by ACF’s former national ACF president and SE Regional VP, chef Reimond Pitz, where she is active with the Charleston chapter.
Brown is up for re-election for her ACF post this year. Re-elected or not, she says, “I will not stop leading or helping my peers and others to advance in the culinary professions.”