Black Girls Lunch With Black Chefs?
On Thursday, December 7th, Quicken Loans arena hosted 18 of the city’s African American chefs. The event was hosted by the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP, the Real Black Friday and the Launch Test Kitchen at the Q.
For the Cavaliers, Quicken Loans Arena and Aramark this event was an opportunity to deepen their level of community engagement and provide access to a historically underrepresented population.
"The Diff"- Launch Test Kitchen
Located on the main concourse of the Q, the Launch test kitchen is a food stand that showcases local chefs throughout the season. The Q was the first arena in the country to have a Launch Test Kitchen. Before the event started the chefs heard remarks from members of the Cavaliers and Aramark, the food service vendor for the arena.
The chefs were told the process of becoming featured at the stand, the benefits, perks and the support offered to ensure that their dishes and recipes exemplified a chef’s level of quality.
They also heard from April Thompson, a private chef who was featured last season and was the first African-American to be featured in the Launch Test Kitchen. She explained how the experience boosted her business. She also talked about the support she received from the arena staff with marketing and working to perfect her recipes as well as how she viewed her time as a way to be a face for young Black kids that aspired to be chefs.
The Launch Test Kitchen rotates chefs and menu items every 7-10 Cavs games and expects to have 2-3 more rotations this season.
The Players...I Mean Chefs
The chefs can from all over Northeast Ohio and made a variety of foods. Some had notable establishments like Beckham’s B&M BBQ, got Ribs, or Sam Sylks Chicken and Fish. Others were private chefs, caterers, restaurateurs or food trucks owners.
The staff at the Q greeted each chef, helped bring in their gear and made sure that they had everything they needed. Each chef had their own table, and had access to the kitchen in Bridges Restaurant to prepare their food.
After getting set-up, the chefs walked around, greet each other with a friendly hug, ask what the other was making and seemed to enjoy being in that space together. It was very easy to forget that there was a competition about to take place.
Sampling Rules of the Land
Each guest was given 3 colored stickers at check-in. The task was to try all the food and give stickers to chefs based on their quality of food, presentation or creativity. You could use all three stickers for one chef if you so desired or you could give the stickers to multiple chefs.
Along with the three categories, the chefs were divided up into 3 divisions to compete for the $350 prize. Runner-ups in each category received $150. The categories were Take-Out, Dine-In, and Private Chef/Catering
At noon, Larese Purnell from the Real Black Friday, gave opening remarks, and Danielle Sydnor, Economic Chair for Cleveland’s NAACP, gave us the rules. Then we were given 1 hour to try everything.
While it was called a sampling event it felt more like a buffet. Most chefs had multiple dishes at their table to try so having a plan came in handy in order to try all the food. My plan was simple, first go the chefs whose food I had never eaten, then if I wasn’t too full, visit the remaining chefs.
When the hour was up, each chef was given a Cavalier's tote filled with goodies as well as two tickets to the upcoming game versus the Atlanta Hawks. And then the moment of truth. The winners were;
- 1st Place Dine-In: Cleveland Mofongo (Akia Booker and Eric Roman)
- 2nd Place Dine-In: Frederick's Wine & Dine (Frederick Parks Jr)
- 1st Place Take-Out: Sam Sylk's Chicken and Fish (Sam Sylk)
- 2nd Place Take-Out: Beckham's B&M BBQ (Greg Beckham)
- 1st Place Catering/Private Chef: Pearl Flower Catering (Tiwanna Williams)
- 2nd Place Catering/Private Chef: Good 2 Go! (Ingrid Miller)
I am so happy I got to attend this event. Not only did I get to eat so much amazing food, but it was so fantastic and awe-inspiring to see Cleveland’s talented black chefs in one room together. I hope that some of these chefs make their way into the Launch Test Kitchen and I hope that this event happens again.