Ebony Austin

This restaurateur centers philanthropy in her culinary ventures

Ebony Austin

Photography by Martha Williams

Ebony Austin developed a love for hospitality at an early age, helping out with her mother’s takeout space while growing up in Chicago. Though she took a detour—first to a corporate career at Godiva and then on to found her own real estate company—serving others has always been on her mind. “I wanted to go back to the basics, and the thing that made me the happiest was cooking, serving others, and being part of the community,” she says. “I wanted to open a restaurant, but I wanted to do it somewhere that showcased Black excellence.”

Austin packed up and moved to Atlanta and immediately began looking for a restaurant. It took her three years to find what she was searching for in College Park. In 2019, she opened Nouveau Bar & Grill, with a subsequent location opening in Jonesboro in 2021.

Service doesn’t end at the restaurant for the chef-owner, though. She founded Nouveau Creations, a brand of stone-ground grits, to give back to HBCUs. Her time at Langston University was formative; a staff member showed her compassion and helped her with her financial struggles—something she’s never forgotten and has used to fuel her own compassion. One hundred percent of the sales of Nouveau Creations goes towards helping HBCU college students with everything from scholarships to material goods such as refrigerators and food. The line can now be found in more than 45 Food Lion locations as well as online.

Her philanthropy continues to inspire others and is a major a part of her everyday life. “Every team member at Nouveau knows that a sale is an opportunity to help another child stay in college or pay for their meal plan,” she says. In addition to donating to HBCUs, Austin has helped families celebrate the holidays with thousands of free Thanksgiving meals and high-ticket gifts such as video game consoles, laptops, and even two fully furnished townhomes for families in need. “I try to come up with opportunities that I think people will remember,” she says. “Ones where they’ll say, hey, somebody gave me the opportunity. Somebody gave me a head start.”