Mariya Russell, chef de cuisine of Chicago’s Kikko and Kumiko, is the first Black woman to earn a Michelin Star in the Guide’s 94-year history.
The Michelin Guide is one of the oldest guide books, published by the Michelin tire company first in 1926, rating restaurants and hotels. The Michelin star is a mark of excellence for restaurateurs and one of the highest honors a chef can receive.
“It was very intense, but then it was like I was finally able to breathe, because I was so anxious that whole time. Just thinking how hard we have worked up until then, from before we opened to now – it’s been a lot,” Russell said after receiving the Michelin Star.
“It has been a little overwhelming, like, ‘OK, everybody is definitely watching me now.’ Anybody that has a Michelin attached to their restaurant feels pressure, but then sometimes I feel like the fact that it’s then attached to ‘You’re the first Black woman to get a Michelin star’ makes it a spectacle. But it’s also very cool that people can come see me and we can hang out together for two hours.”
Russell is an Ohio native who found her passion for cooking early in life. During high school, she enrolled in a culinary training program where she performed exceptionally well. She eventually moved on to culinary school, getting her first job as a line cook.
Prior to the announcement of the Michelin award, Russell and her husband Garrett, Kumiko’s sous chef, had already discovered that there had never been a Black woman to win the honor, making the moment even more special.