In 1991, Toni became the first African-American woman to hold the position of food editor at a major daily newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Prior to that post, she was the nutrition writer for the Los Angeles Times and a contributing editor to Heart and Soul Magazine (a health and fitness book for African-American women). She has shared her passion for cooks and the community as a freelance writer for UNC Wilmington’s Ecotone Journal, the Austin Chronicle, Texas Co-op Magazine, Gastronomica The Journal of Food and Culture, and Cooking Light Magazine.
In 2008, after 30 years teaching cooking in the media and demonstrations, Toni founded The SANDE Youth Project as a grassroots outreach to improve the lives of vulnerable families. The 501(c)(3) not-for-profit is dedicated to combating childhood hunger, obesity and disease by promoting the connection between cultural heritage, cooking, and wellness. Through community partnership with the University of Texas, and collaborations with Oldways Preservation Trust, the City of Austin, Edible Austin Magazine, and others, Toni’s organization presents hands-on, culturally-sensitive, culinary-focused activities for the community, including nutrition classes in mobile settings and at its annual signature event, the Children’s Picnic and Real Food Fair.
She is a co-founder and president of the board of Foodways Texas, and on the board of the community-building organization Peace Through Pie. She is on the Broadcast Committee for the James Beard Awards and the African Heritage Diet Pyramid Advisory Committee for Oldways. Toni is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier Austin Chapter, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and is a co-founder and former president of Southern Foodways Alliance. Toni has been a guest instructor at Whole Foods Culinary Center, and has appeared on the Cooking Channel’s Foodography and the PBS feature Juneteenth Jamboree. She has been a featured speaker at several places, including the Austin History Center; the Longone Center for American Culinary Research; Culinary Historians of Southern California; and Mississippi University for Women, among many others. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Journalism and lives in Austin with her husband. She is the mother of four.
“The Jemima Code” is also the title of her blog and a traveling exhibit, featuring larger-than-life images of black cooks at work, curated from Toni’s gallery of authors. Toni has recently been celebrated in the press for her work on and surround The Jemima Code, with coverage from CBS News, The Denver Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Splendid Table, and many more.