First Black Woman Chef to Lead Michelin Restaurant Returns from Hiatus with Pop-Ups

by Xara Aziz
Voiced by Amazon Polly

It made national headlines when renowned chef Mariya Russell made history in 2020 when she was named the first Black woman to lead a Michelin-starred restaurant. Months after the watershed moment, she stepped down from the Chicago restaurant where she earned the title but has chosen to return to the business with pop-up shops throughout metro Detroit.

Mariya and her husband Garrett Russell, who was also in the culinary business as a sous chef at Kikko’s sister bar and restaurant Kumiko, found that they needed a break to process the significant win, so they both stepped down from their roles and moved to Hawaii to heal, according to feature story in the Eater. After two years in Hawaii, they decided to move back to the Midwest to spend time with their family and jump back into business.

The power couple will host a sold-out dinner this Sunday at Freya in Detroit in collaboration with the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, Phoebe Zimmerman. Then during the first week of March, they will host events at Frame, which will include multi-course dinners.

“I thought that putting down some roots here and creating some community here would be a good idea for us because we’re always going to come back,” Russell said in the feature.

She further revealed that she and her husband will relocate to Tennessee shortly after their Detroit pop-ups to consider opening up a restaurant of their own. Although she says that she has spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on her own experiences in fine dining — the long hours, the pressures she’s placed on herself throughout her decades-spanning career to achieve excellence, and the often chaotic environment that restaurant kitchens foster,” she is ready to jump back in the ring.  

“Our vision is more of a destination place where you come in, we cook for you, and we teach you about the food that you’re eating, where it’s coming from — all of those things. It’s more of an experience,” she said.

Essentially, she said, she is in a better place to focus on her love and passion for food.

 “I’m feeling wonderful now, honestly. I feel like I’m ready to share everything that I’ve been working on. I’m at a place where I know my limits and so if there are things that I need, I know when to stop and I know when to get them for myself,” she says. “I’m in a much better headspace and heart space to be able to give everything that I want to give to the world.”

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