In “Tasting the South in the San Fernando Valley,” producer Rebecca Katz tells the story of how three black women created a soul food institution in one of the whitest parts of the San Fernando Valley that still thrives today.
During the Second Great Migration in the 1940s, large numbers of Black Americans traveled west to Los Angeles, California. The Black population in Los Angeles increased nearly twelvefold from 1940 to 1970.
In this episode, we learn about the racial history of the San Fernando Valley specifically a suburb just north of the city of Los Angeles. While Los Angeles as a city was diversifying after the second great migration, certain parts of the Valley remained largely white due to its iron-clad race restrictions—some of the harshest in the nation. In the episode, we hone in on one small town at the Western tip of the valley called Chatsworth, which was 98% white in the 1980s.
Three Black women, Clara Huling, Roda Hadi, and Willie Stanford, were each already working in the restaurant industry in the Valley in the 1980s, not far from Chatsworth. They each had different ties to the South and they all missed Southern cooking and classic soul food. One night, they decided to open a restaurant—bringing classic soul food to the largely white valley. And they did just that. They came together and opened a tiny soul food spot in the unlikeliest of all places—Chatsworth.
Nearly 40 years after that grand opening, Clara’s granddaughter, Jessica Huling, still owns and operates the restaurant, which has been deemed some of the best soul food in Los Angeles by many reputable food outlets.
In this episode, we hear from Jessica about how the restaurant thrived in such a white area through the years. We explore how the restaurant has overcome the odds, evolved its customer base, and greatly influenced the Black community in the Valley today.
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