Lunching & Launching with Black Chefs
by Shana Black
The Launch Test Kitchen Food Tasting and Business Development Experience returned to the Q this year with 11 new and returning chefs looking to be featured on the main concourse during Cavs and Monsters games. The event, in it’s 2nd year, returned as a partnership between the NAACP, ECDI The Real Black Friday and the Cavs.
The event began with a welcome and panel of last years winners in the Bar Symon restaurant. The chefs gave words of wisdom and encouragement to the competing chefs as well as sharing their experiences at the Q and their growth from the last year.
One of the main take aways from the panel was an ask of the crowd and public for when you have a bad experience at a restaurant. We were asked to talk to the management and give feedback but also return for another visit instead of blasting the restaurant on Facebook or social media.
What I enjoyed about this event was that is was a cross-section of who’s who in Black Cleveland. Among the crowd were Black journalists, Black mayors, People from the Cleveland Cavaliers including celebrities Ahmad Crump and Austin Carr. There were city organizers, event promoters as well as many familiar faces from Cleveland’s Black community.
The talk wrapped up with an introduction of the competing chefs and instructions for the attendee. As we entered we will get 3 stickers to vote on quality, presentation and creativity. The chef with the most stickers will win.
In the Lounge
After the panel we moved from Bar Symon, we moved to the Huntington Legends Club where the chefs were waiting for us to try their cuisine. I’d like to tell you exactly what I ate but I was so focused on trying everything, I stopped thinking about the blog and focused on filling my stomach.
Needless to say I ate a lot. From, wings, to mac and cheese to cupcakes and grits, I eventually reached a point where I was stuffed. I wish I could say I tried everything but the portion sizes were so filling that after a few small plates of food I could eat no more.
Between figuring out what to eat next and stuffing my face I got a chance to people watch and meet new people. It was nice to see how everyone greeted each other with smiles and hugs. People talked business or reminisced. It was very communal. It began to feel like a reunion as opposed to a competition.
After an hour of getting to try all the food, we were reminded to make sure we voted so because the tally sheets were about to be collected. Then we moved headed back to Bar Symon for the announcement of the winners.
This year’s competition was divided into two categories. There were winners for dine-in businesses such as restaurants and a category for take-out spots and catering businesses.
In the Take-out/Catering category Smokey Sweet Soul won 1st place with second place going to Simply Elegant Catering.
I am so glad that I got the chance to return to this event again this year. While we’ve been told over and over that Cleveland is a food town, it’s so great to see how many Black people are contributing to the local food landscape.