A Q&A With Chef Meski Worku

By Jan Newberry
February 8, 2023

Before Meski Worku came to the U.S., she lived in Ethiopia, where learned to cook watching her grandmother prepare meals in her family kitchen. Today, Worku is one of Territory’s most popular chefs, offering meals that highlight her favorite East African ingredients. We checked in with Worku to learn more about her must-have seasonings, how cooking with intention leads to food that can create bonds, the cooks who inspire her most, and what are the greatest opportunities for young, Black chefs today.

Territory: How does your Ethiopian heritage influence your cooking? 

Worku: One of the most important aspects of my Ethiopian heritage that I recognize in my cooking is to slow down, cook with intention, and appreciate what I create. I like to focus on the tradition and develop flavors that can be showcased as artwork. I use food to create relationships and form bonds. Meals are a very central part of my culture and I’m proud to tell my story through food.

Territory: Who inspired you to become a cook? 

Worku:  I have two very important role models when it comes to cooking —my grandmother and Marcus Samuelson, the Ethiopian-born cookbook author and chef. My grandmother was an amazing cook and a business-focused woman, which influenced how I cook now. My immediate family was pursuing big careers in medicine but I spent more time with her, learning about our rich and authentic culture through food. Marcus Samuelson has always been a big inspiration to me. He’s never forgotten his Ethiopian roots. He inspires me to always go out of the box.

Territory: What are some of the key ingredients you rely on to make your food so flavorful?

Worku: I love to use lots of vibrant spices like turmeric, berbere, cardamom, garlic, onion. You can never go wrong with these and I use them as a base for everything. 

Territory: How has partnering with Territory helped you grow your business? 

Worku: As a woman and POC, Territory has supported me to showcase my culture through food to a larger audience than I would otherwise have access to. Our partnership is strong, and I’m very grateful for the experience.

Territory: Which Territory meal of yours would you recommend to someone who’s never tried your food?  

Worku: My Ethiopian Berbere Lentils with Brown Rice and Braised Collard Greens is a traditional Ethiopian meal and very close to my heart

Territory: What are the biggest barriers facing Black chefs who want to advance in this industry? What are the greatest opportunities? 

Worku: The challenges are the cultural stereotypes that hold us back from getting exposure. The greatest opportunities are to embrace our diversity, our roots, and culture. Everyone comes from somewhere and everyone has a story. Be authentic. We’re all connected and open to new flavors and techniques. Be open to your culture. Use spices and flavors that speak to you and highlight YOU. Cooking is an art —if you’re given a chance you can make it work

Territory: What advice would you give to young Black chefs starting out today?

Worku: Don’t be afraid. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect but you must take pride in your work. Once you take pride, others will see it and acknowledge it. Put your signature on it. It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Challenges are here to make us better.

Try Chef Meski Worku's Meals

Our menus vary by zip code. We pride ourselves on working with chefs across the country for a variety of flavors, delivering within a regional radius for freshness, and having a rotating menu so Territory customers never get bored of our options! If you see a Territory meal you'd love to try, but don't see it on your weekly menu, email us at [email protected]m so we can share your wishlist with our culinary team. We appreciate your feedback.

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