The daughter of an African American serviceman and a Korean émigré mother, LaMara Davidson’s melding of soul and Korean food comes honestly — it’s what she grew up eating. One of LaMara’s earliest food memories is sitting on the kitchen ﬂoor in her family’s Quad Cities home peeling garlic as she watched her mother salt and wash Napa cabbage for kimchi. Growing up, she’d help her mother make mandu — Korean dumplings — and fondly remembers the sound and smell of kalbi sizzling on the grill. She learned traditional southern techniques simply by observing her paternal grandmother, a native Alabamian, who showed her how to make turnips and mustard greens. Her secret: keeping the leaves whole. “She swore they tasted better that way.” LaMara was able to delve into both cuisines more deeply after her family moved to Atlanta, where there was both a burgeoning Korean community and a large black middle class. The abundance of Asian ﬂavors and Southern foods helped LaMara develop her palate for a future in food.
For the majority of her career, Davidson continued almost exclusively for the Marriott Corporation, working at prestigious properties including The Ritz Carlton Atlanta, JW Marriott Austin and the Gaylord Texan Resort in Texas. During her time as executive chef at the Gaylord Texan, LaMara was selected as one of twelve chefs nationally to be featured in Marriott International’s Diary of the Craft Artisan video series, an initiative highlighting Marriott’s food and beverage talent across the globe. LaMara traveled the U.S. as part of their International’s team of corporate chefs supporting all brands under their umbrella which included The Autograph Collection Lido House Newport Beach, The Westin Pittsburgh, and Sheraton San Diego.
In 2020 she left the corporate world and launched her product line Cornbread and Kimchi, creating special blends of ﬂours, bread crumbs and seasonings showcasing her signature “Seoul food” style. A true love letter to her heritage and upbringing complete with merchandise swag.
Today Chef LaMara’s involvement in the industry moves beyond the line as well with appearances at Charleston Wine + Food, print and online features in People Magazine, Food Network Magazine, Apartment Therapy, Food & Wine, Forbes.com, HuPost, Saveur and Essence to name a few. In February 2022, Davidson joined CookUnity the ﬁrst ever chef collective where LaMara will debut her menu of inspiring dishes for meal deliveries in Atlanta and soon to be nationwide.
There are some things you have no control over, like being born into two delicious and wildly complimentary cooking traditions. I know LaMara as a friend who once offered to whip up something for a room full of hungry musicians whom to this day cannot stop singing... her praises. ps. She’s also a great friend.
I have known LaMara for 25+ years and she is a FORCE (naturally, since she’s a Sagittarius)! When I was an executive at RCA Records, we hired LaMara to liven up our weekly lunch meetings. She came up with creative dishes that everyone enjoyed. No more boring lunch meetings! Her creativity with the food set the tone — she helped to get us out of a rut, not only with the lunch menus, but with our own creative ideas, as well! LaMara’s genius lies in her cultural intersectionality expertise, which many attempt, but few actually execute successfully. Her food is always tasty, always inventive, and never disappoints. I wish I lived closer to her -- I miss her cooking!
Thank goodness for LaMara Davidson! When I know I need something extra special and delicious, but can’t quite put my finger on what, LaMara has come through every time. From political fundraisers that have to please everyone, to work events and special occasions, - - is my “ace in the hole.” All of my employees know that if we somehow have the privilege of LaMara Davidson catering, they must have done something spectacular. Thank you, LaMara Davidson!!!
Chef LaMara is an incredible human, chef, leader, and talent. She exudes a joy and lust for life that always manages to make it onto the plate with bold and exciting flavors. At the JW Marriott, Austin, I witnessed her ability to lead and inspire, thriving in the most challenging of circumstances. Working with her to develop menus for the Gaylord Rockies continued to show me her talent for methodically capturing and sharing her culinary skill with those in her tutelage. LaMara has the gift of endless passion coupled with both impeccable technique and unwavering dedication.
A flashback to my days as Executive Chef at Marriott International! A video about my team and the process of crafting the perfect culinary experience.
By Lane Nieset, Food & Wine
June 10, 2021
“Fried chicken is the universal comfort food dish that people make all around the world. Whether you make Korean fried chicken, which is twice-fried with a rice flour (preferably) and usually tossed in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce, or Southern fried, it’s one of those feel-good dishes that instantly takes you back to a fond food memory.” – LaMara Davidson, chef and founder of Cornbread + Kimchi