Jessica B. Harris is the author of nine critically acclaimed cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora: Hot Stuff: A Cookbook in Praise of the Piquant, Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa's Gifts to New World Cooking, Sky Juice and Flying Fish Traditional Caribbean Cooking, Tasting Brazil: Regional Recipes and Reminiscences, The Welcome Table: African American Heritage Cooking, A Kwanzaa Keepsake, The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim, and On the Side, a book about side dishes and condiments.
A culinary historian, she has lectured on African-American foodways at The Museum of Natural History in New York City, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC as well as at numerous institutions and colleges throughout the United States and Abroad. She is currently working on The Martha's Vineyard Table, to be published by Chronicle Books in 2007.
In her three decades as a journalist, Harris has written book reviews, theatre reviews, travel, feature and beauty articles too numerous to note. She has written extensively about the culture of Africa in the Americas, particularly the foodways, for publications ranging from Essence (where she was travel editor from 1977-1980) to German Vogue. She has written for most of the major food magazines Including Gourmet, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Eating Well. She has chaired panels and given presentations at the Fancy Food Shows in both San Francisco and New York, at Chef Magazine's Chef des Chefs, at IACP [International Association of Culinary Professionals] and AIWF [American Institute of Wine and Food] conferences too numerous to note, and at The Caribbean Culinary Federation's annual Taste of the Caribbean, where she gave the keynote address for six years.
Dr. Harris has made numerous television appearances on shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Main Ingredient,B. Smith with Style, and the Party Planner with David Tutera. On the Television Food Network, where has appeared on the Curtis Aikens Show, Sara Moulton's Cooking Live, and TV Food News and Views. She has hosted five episodes of Chef du Jour and served as the resident food historian of Sara Moulton's Cooking Live Primetime from July through November 1999 and has served as a culinary and cultural expert on two Burt Wolfe series for PBS.
Dr. Harris has served as a consultant for Kraft Foods, Pillsbury Foods, Unilever, and Almond Resorts in Barbados among others. She is also a member of Sterling Rice's culinary council that that serves as a think tank for major food manufacturers.
A tenured full professor of English at Queens College, C.U.N.Y., Harris holds degrees from Bryn Mawr College, Queens College, The Universite de Nancy, France, and a doctorate in Performance Studies from New York University where her dissertation focused on the French-speaking theatre of Senegal. She speaks French fluently and is conversant in Spanish and Portuguese.
Dr. Harris has been a National Board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food and a board member of the Caribbean Culinary Federation, the New York Chapter of Les Dames D'Escoffier, and the Southern Foodways Alliance where she was a founding member and also served as chair of the planning and then programming committees. She is a life member of the College Language Association. She is a member of the Board of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.