By Carl Thomas, Special to the AFRO
On Nov. 4 Black restaurant and food service providers will compete in a cocktail competition to name the best bartender in the region. Then on Nov. 6, Black restauranteurs, food service industry insiders, entrepreneurs and foodies alike will meet for a conference at Georgetown University to discuss opportunities, finances and ownership in the restaurant industry. This is just one of the events created for the 2nd Annual DMV Black Restaurant Week (Nov. 3-10).
Yes. There is a non-specific restaurant week featuring restaurants mostly considered “pricey” by the majority of the city’s 700,000 plus residents. Local businesses offer a discounted three-course meal to patrons for a specified week.
So why do we need DMV Black restaurant week? For that answer, we have to unpack the numbers in greater detail.
There are 2,233 restaurants in D.C. and African Americans own only eight percent. I will save you the math. 179.
The 2nd Annual DMV Black Restaurant Week is Nov. 3-10.
DMV Black Restaurant Week is missioned with increasing awareness and support for Black owned food service providers. This means Black owned restaurants, bars, lounges, food trucks, and caterers are all being highlighted during the seven days. The events call attention to the Black owned establishments, which have been, and continue to be, a deeply engrained portion of the African American’s fabric and culture.
“Cooperative economics has always been the backbone and one of the core principles of our ability to sustain our communities,” said Farard Tate, owner of Inspire Hospitality and one-third of the curating group, TEAJ (Tate, Erinn, and AJ).
One way DMV Black Restaurant Week will highlight cooperative economics is through the conference on Nov. 6. “The conference is so important because we not only promote the restaurants, but truly wanted to celebrate our culture and empower our culture through education,” Tate told the AFRO.
Co-founders, Dr. Erinn Tucker and Andra “AJ” Johnson have made their own individual impacts on the hospitality industry. Johnson is a longtime D.C. bartender and has been a consistent advocate for inclusion in the District’s Hospitality industry. Dr. Tucker is faculty director of the Global Hospitality Leadership master’s program at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. This is a team of professionals who really have a firm grip on the issues within the hospitality industry nationwide.
As a unit, the trio has curated an annual experience for the showcasing of Black talent and culture. “One of the ways we continue the principles of our culture is through the preservation of our food,” Tate said. “You know exactly how your grandma’s greens taste, and how wonderful it would be for your youngest child- who never had the honor of tasting your grandmother’s cooking- to taste grandma’s greens? It wasn’t just the taste. Remember, it was the experience of being in the kitchen when grandma prepared those greens. Everybody knew what grandma was cooking because of the aroma.”
Many of the District’s Black owned restaurants focus their attention on a subset of Black culture. One restaurant may focus on southern fried chicken, while another may bring soul food to vegan consumers. “All those things are life experiences rooted in our DNA,” Tate explained. “So, through Black Restaurant Week we are sustaining our culture and legacy through the understanding of our food. We #TasteTheCulture.”
DMV Black Restaurant Week is an opportunity to highlight and celebrate Black excellence in the hospitality and food service industry.
“We will have Black restaurant owners, Black owned food service distributors, Black owned beer distributors all in the same place, hoping to eliminate this misunderstanding that we can only be one type of microcosm of business owner,” Tucker told the AFRO. “We have some of everything. There will be amazing Black business owners sharing what they’ve learned in this industry. There was no platform for these businesses, within the food space in the past, and it was a huge goal of ours to be able to provide that.”
TEAJ is curating Black Restaurant Week for several cities and is actively partnering with other entities to create this model in other places across the country. To find out more about DMV Black Restaurant Week and associated events, visit www.DMVBRW.com.