The Black, White and The Grey is not just a book about two people going into business together but it’s the remarkable story of two New Yorkers – one is black and one is white – who are strangers, but plan to open a restaurant in the South. The Deep South.
As we are all aware, race relations in the United States is troubling. John Morisano (referred to as Johnno) wanted to open a restaurant but he needed a chef to run it. Chef Mashama Bailey wanted to run her own kitchen but was not in the position to do that. They each took a huge leap of faith in each other to make their dreams a reality. Then added in a historically, racially compartmentalized community by moving to Savannah, Georgia. But the gamble paid off and after two years of planning, they opened The Grey, after renovating an old Greyhound bus terminal.
This book retells their journey to finding each other. From meeting in New York to moving to Savannah, going through long renovations, getting to know their new community, finding suppliers, and developing a menu for the restaurant while learning about each other. Many budding friendships start over sharing a meal so food was the jumping off point to their relationship. Along with their story, the book also includes recipes of meals that they had over business meeting, meals that they enjoyed growing up with their family, and also items they were testing to serve at the restaurant.
What’s unique about this book is that it’s written with the voices of both authors. They share some very personal recollections and honest feelings about their lives and this process. One example in the book is when Johnno wants to preserve the history of The Greyhound station (opened in 1938) by keeping the sign that says “Coloured Waiting Room”. Mashama does not agree. They both find a way to share their feelings to come to a compromise. Raw, uncomfortable and real conversations like this fill the book. There is real emotion that you can feel as they are learning about each other, working on trust issues, dealing with gender and power dynamics, and their own personal and historical biases. Persevering through this journey, the book ends with how they have both grown, developed their friendship and opened a restaurant.
Join my next virtual book club for an in depth discussion about this book on March 28.