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Edisto Island Matriarch and Chef Emily Meggett Dies at 90

Meggett is well known for her Gullah Geechee cooking

A Black woman in a pink shirt holding a bowl of grits.
Emily Meggett is known to many as the matriarch of Edisto Island.
Clay Williams
Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas.

Legendary Gullah Geechee chef Emily Meggett died on Friday, April 21, at the age of 90. Known to many as the matriarch of Edisto Island, she was born on the South Carolina sea island on November 19, 1932. There, she married Jessie Meggett, and they had 10 children.

Meggett was known to many for her cooking, especially after the publication of her acclaimed cookbook Gullah Geechee Home Cooking. She writes in her introduction, “Throughout the years, I have fed too many people to count. Wherever I go, it is important to me that I do not go empty-handed. I always bring the gift of food.”

She shared her recipe for fried chicken with Eater when the book came out in 2022. Journalist Kayla Stewart writes, “Like countless other Black women who turned to cooking — and fried chicken specifically — as a vehicle for economic opportunity, Meggett has been able to use her fried chicken, along with dishes like fried fish, red rice, and chicken perloo, to forge her own path in South Carolina’s culinary space.”

In 2019, Eater visited Meggett at her home on Edisto Island with Gullah Geechee chef B.J. Dennis. In the video, Dennis says that you don’t get any more authentic than Meggett and her cooking. She prepared a spottail bass stuffed with parsley rice. In her cookbook, she references the video, “... People all over the world have watched this video and have learned just a bit about this beautiful place, and the beautiful culture behind it. Cooking teaches, cooking heals, and cooking loves.”