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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Spencer McMillin

Spencer McMillin was born in 1969. In 1983, he got his first job in the restaurant industry. He has been a chef in Memphis since the early 1990s. During his time as a chef in Memphis, McMillin worked in several restaurants, including Café Samovar, Erling Jensen’s Bistro Concept, and EJ’s Brasserie. McMillin also was a culinary instructor at Le’Ecole Culinaire.

When the Pandemic hit in March 2020, he was a chef at Caritas Village cafe, a community center and café in the Binghampton neighborhood of Memphis. In this interview, McMillin speaks to the early days of relief work during the pandemic. He and his wife founded the Restaurant Workers Unity Project. In the first weeks of the pandemic, restaurants and farmers donated food they could not use, and the group fed 4,300 out of work restaurant workers for free. When McMillin and his partners realized that the pandemic was here to stay, they closed the Caritas Kitchen for the safety of their employees and the community.  He then became involved with Feed the Frontlines Memphis, a group which provided paid shuttered restaurants to make and deliver meals to frontline healthcare workers in the Memphis area. In 2020, he published The Caritas Cookbook, a cookbook based upon his time working at Caritas Village café.

Date of interview:

Annemarie Anderson


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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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