On Monday, January 15, Charisse McGill — creator of French Toast Bites and owner of Lokal Artisan Foods at Cherry Street Pier — died at age 42.
On Thursday evening, a statement from the McGill family was posted on the Lokal Artisan Foods Instagram page:
It is with great sadness we share that our founder, visionary, leader and history maker Charisse McGill has been taken from us this week. Our hearts are heavy and she will be dearly missed. She was an inspiration to our immediate and French Toast Bites families and all her friends - and to her fans, students, partners and colleagues in Philadelphia and across America. During this time, we ask for time, compassion and grace - and we want you to know we appreciate all of the love, support and condolences as we mourn this tragic loss.
French Toast Bites and Lokal Artisan Foods will continue to operate in Charisse’s memory. Venues will remain open and partnerships will continue.
In coming days, please check back here and our website for information about a public memorial event, as well as information on other ways to remember and continue her legacy. Information will also be forthcoming about where to direct donations.
We are at a loss for additional words today, and we will soon share memories together. But for now, we want to say thank you and that we will miss you, our French Toast Bae. XXOO
McGill was a trailblazing local food entrepreneur who was known for her creative business savvy and civic engagement. Before becoming the founder and owner of Lokal Artisan Foods, she proudly quit her job as the director of special events at Valley Forge Military Academy and previously running the Lansdale Farmers Market. The initial investment in the business came from the lemonade sales of her then-young daughter, Madison, who will continue to help run the company.
“My daughter, who’s almost 18 now, first started her lemonade business when she was just 12 years old,” McGill told The Philadelphia Tribune during a September 2023 interview. “She spent fourteen Saturdays in the summer selling lemonade and made $6,000. And the following summer the same thing happened.”
Since launching in 2018, McGill’s business grew into prominence as her tasty French Toast Bites often sold out at traffic-heavy local venues such as Cherry Street Pier and Spruce Street Harbor Park. In 2021, she made history as the first Black woman to have a signature beer in Pennsylvania with the roll-out of French Toast Ale in collaboration with Yards Brewing Company. Her company would later produce a spice product and coffee based off of her popular French Toast Bites.
Last fall, McGill would go on to become the first Black woman to serve as executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition — a national nonprofit position in which she advocated on behalf of over 8,000 farmers markets across America.
“I hope I can open up doors for more and more Black woman,” McGill told the press during the time of her historic appointment. “Over the years, I took some risks but it all worked out. And here I am today. I may have some bruises, but definitely no scars.”
In addition to Madison, McGill is survived by her parents, Maurice Davidson and Tina Jackson, and other relatives.