Detroiter Chi Walker is introducing a unique food experience and making history during a month that celebrates Black excellence. The Black Bottom Supper Club is the city’s newest way of exploring local and delicious Black cuisine while getting a lesson in Detroit’s rich history.
Named after the city’s historic Black Bottom neighborhood which has been lost to urban revitalization, the dinner club is a quarterly food experience that couples Black-owned businesses, specialty curated menus from Black chefs and crafted cocktails for a dinner party like no other. The Black Bottom Supper Club is a piece of personal history for its founder.
“My mom was born in Black Bottom and I said, ‘you need to do something that is representative of who you are and where you’re from,’” Walker says of herself.
Strongly influenced by the Harlem Renaissance era and paying homage to luminaries of that time such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston, the launch of the dinner club brings a taste of that era to present-day Detroit.
“I am 1000 percent also obsessed with French salons and the Harlem Renaissance. So, I’m like ‘oh I’ve always wanted to host a salon and I want it to be all chic and have artists and great food and great drinks and incredible thought,’” Walker says.
For the second-generation Detroiter, small business is embedded in her DNA. With both parents owning and operating successful small businesses in the city, launching her business venture seemed to be a natural next step.
“Walkers Heating and Cooling, we’ve been in business for about 30 years now. My mom has Pinky’s Shuga Shack bakery in the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood,” Walker says.
With a background in corporate America Walker, a self-taught cook and self-proclaimed foodie, used her time to explore food and flavor from different areas. Working closely in low-income housing and community development, the job often required trips to train other organizations. The interest in food and flavors grew with each city. Charged with finding the best eateries and local shops during work trips, the food connoisseur soon had an arsenal of flavor profiles at her disposal.
“One of my little projects was to plan out all the different little restaurants that we would go and visit,” Walker says. “We would go anywhere and everywhere. Of course, I would always try to find the small-owned Black businesses, and it turned into a thing.”
Later parting with the company, Walker returned to Detroit and began laying the groundwork for what would be the ultimate dinner club experience. Wanting to ensure that Detroit will be on the list of cities for her former employer to travel to, the native Detroiter, she wanted to do something special to showcase the city in its best light. Grabbing the reins, Walker organized a list of hotspots in Detroit for her former colleagues.
“Even though I wasn’t with the organization, I still stayed in contact with a lot of the people,” Walker says. “So, when they came to the city, I kind of did the same thing that I did when I worked there and kind of engineered a local bar crawl and put out an agenda, an itinerary of different little spots because I lived there now.”
Walker’s love of food led to the launch of an Instagram microblog, Slightly Burnt. The food blog depicts Walker’s different restaurant and food experiences in the city.
“My intent with that was to focus, again, on small locally-owned businesses and chefs, restaurants [that were] primarily Black- and women-owned and/or operated,” Walker says.
Now, on a grander scale, Walker looks to continue highlighting local Black chefs through the supper club.
“I’m creating this supper club as a platform for these cooks who are in these restaurants that everybody wants to go to, the hot restaurants, the people who are actually in there doing the work,” Walker says. “There is some absolutely unrecognized talent and I want to get them out here and get them exposure on a small scale.”
Hosted at a different Black-owned business every quarter, each supper club dinner event will have a different menu featuring the culinary talents of some of Detroit’s best chefs. To accompany dinner, cocktails are created to add an additional flair. The goal is to bring the community together to begin having necessary conversations about their neighborhoods.
“I pair a chef with a cocktail alchemist, as I like to call them, and that’s one of the premises of it. They get together and create a menu. So, it’s going to be dinner and cocktail pairing, like the full gambit, but over some dope conversation. The goal is to get other community leaders, activists, artists, educators, community members at a table that they may not otherwise be able to sit at.”
Never forgetting the city’s history and the neighborhood that housed her mother, dinner club participants will not be able to leave without a brief lesson on the iconic Detroit community.
“With it being called The Black Bottom Supper Club, there will be a portion of [the experience] dedicated to educating people about Black Bottom because I don’t think enough people know about it. I don’t think people really think about it,” Walker says.
“This is absolutely my love letter to Detroit,” Walker says.
In addition to the Black Bottom Supper Club Walker has launched another project in partnership with local chef Nik R. Cole of What Nik Ate and The Speakeasy Detroit, Fried Chicken and Caviar.
“Of course, February again, one because of Valentine’s Day and then Black History Month because I’m Black and the goal is to support and promote Black businesses and Black creatives,” Walker says. “There wasn’t, I didn’t think, a better time to do it.”
Launching with full pandemic precautions, The Black Bottom Supper Club is planning for it’s first intimate gatherings within the coming months. In the interim, you can partake in ‘Fried Chicken and Caviar for February 13 and February 14. Visit www.friedchickenandcaviar.com by Feb. 11 to order.