The pandemic has hit the restaurant industry especially hard causing many businesses to close its doors, some for good. Black-owned restaurants, already with high closure rates, low success rates and a lessened chance of receiving financial assistance, are experiencing hardship on a different scale. A local food enthusiast is looking to change the landscape of Black-owned restaurants in the city and introduce current and new customers to Black chefs and their spin on iconic eats.
Detroit Black Restaurant Week is kicking off its fourth year with a double dose of Black eats. Offering a second date to this year’s festivities, food lovers will be able to experience cuisine from Black restaurants and chefs across the city and allow owners the chance to have their dishes on display.
“Detroit Black Restaurant Week was founded in 2017. It was strictly an awareness push towards Black-owned establishments in the city,” says founder Kwaku Osei-Bonsu.
While Detroit does have its own restaurant week which lists more mainstream restaurants to visit, upon moving back to the Detroit area after spending some time in Washington D.C. and New York, the founder saw there was almost no lane for Black establishments.
“Like many others, I like to eat and saw that list and I’m like ‘okay I see this list, but where are all the Black-owned restaurants,’ and there weren’t many on there with the exception of a few that were downtown,” says Osei-Bonsu.
The first restaurant week of the season will be April 9 through18 and will provide some much-needed shine to Black-owned restaurants. The growing list of more than 30 participating eateries and pop-in chefs is continuously expanding, but will feature some Detroit hot spots like Spud Headz, Floods and Durden’s Catering.
Fried Chicken and Caviar co-owners Nik Cole and Chi Walker will be among cooks highlighted during Detroit Black Restaurant Week. In 2018, these self-proclaimed food soulmates joined forces to create what is known as a pop-up dining experience, Fried Chicken and Caviar which combines comfort food with luxury for a unique food experience.
“We started a secret dining dinner party, an underground dinner party in my carriage house and that’s how Fried Chicken and Caviar was born,” says co-owner Nik Cole. “We started cooking things for our friends that we’ve always wanted to cook, but they probably hadn’t experienced before.”
Detroit Black Restaurant Week was created, not only to highlight Black eats and cooks, but to continuously bring notice to the restaurants that do not receive as much foot traffic or attention as others.
“Over 75 percent of the food businesses in the city of Detroit are Black-owned. However, we only talk about four or five of these restaurants” says Walker. It’s incredibly important that we highlight these businesses.”
With something for everybody, Detroit Black Restaurant Week will also offer vegan options ensuring choices for every taste bud.
This year, the founder of Detroit restaurant week combined with Pepsi to create a synergistic partnership.
“That’s going to allow us to do some amazing things,” says Osei-Bonsu.
Detroit Black Restaurant Week is not exclusive to professional culinary chefs. It works to highlight Black dishes from all aspects of cooking from restaurateurs, chefs, caterers and food truck owners.
“Also doing a good job to make sure that when we say ‘Black food’ it doesn’t just bring to mind soul food. Black food is so many things; we’re talking the creation of this through Black people,” says Osei-Bonsu.
For restaurant and food truck owners, along with food enthusiasts alike, all will have the opportunity to show their culinary chops in a way that brings attention to their food and helps to circle money throughout the Black community. While restaurants will be a part of the week’s highlights, Osei-Bonsu and collegiate friend Dr. Lloyd Talley, the corporate business partner of Tiny Dine and Mln8, the parent company for DBRW and other entities, joined together to launch East Eats, which will be home to pop-in cooks like Fried Chicken and Caviar.
“Thinking that Kwaku had these really strong connections with Black businesses, specifically Black food related businesses, we decided how about a dining club,” says Dr. Talley. “And then finally to chart kind of a new opportunity to provide this collective economy.”
Restaurants and cooks looking to join, while no longer able to sign up for April’s activities, can consider the next one right around the corner in August; they’re still accepting new and recurring restaurants for that timeframe.
Watch a video interview with Digital Anchor Andre Ash here.