New Orleans’s Black Restaurant Week kicks off today, October 2, and nearly 30 local restaurants, caterers, and chefs are participating in the annual event, including Dooky Chase’s, Queen Trini Lisa, Meals from the Heart Cafe, and Vegan Wit’ a Twist, among others.
The 10-day campaign, which is in New Orleans for the third year, features local restaurants and caterers offering meal specials, prix fixe brunches and dinners, and new dishes. Due to the ongoing health crisis, takeout and delivery options have expanded (diners can even filter the list of restaurants by delivery service).
Founded by Warren Luckett, Falayn Ferrell, and Derek Robinson in Houston in 2016, Black Restaurant Week has expanded to eight cities in the five years since. Ferrell tells Eater New Orleans that Luckett, a distributor for South African wine at the time, “saw an opening to tell a story about the Black culinary experience.” And while Houston has a prominent restaurant week, Ferrell said that many Black businesses, for instance counter-service restaurants, were excluded by the nature of the campaign’s format. “Their business models aren’t set up for three-course, all-inclusive meals.”
The trio wanted to create a platform that better suited Black-owned businesses, as well as one that included all the pieces of the industry — caterers, food trucks, bartenders, etc. “The community took to it really well, and the businesses requested to expand from a one week campaign to two. The beauty of what we built is we never had to change the foundation, just expand it.”
After the first year in Houston in 2016, Luckett, Ferrell, and Robinson brought it to Oakland and Atlanta in 2017; to Philly, New Orleans, and Dallas in 2018; and finally to Los Angeles. This year, the hosts created regional models to bring support to even more businesses — in Florida, the Midwest, DC, Alabama, and New York.
“Last year we showcased 270 professionals, 400 so far this year. But we’re already seeing the effects of the pandemic. A few New Orleans businesses that had previously participated have already closed as a result,” Ferrell told Eater. “When we first started this year, some businesses told us the campaign helped them keep keep their doors open a few more weeks,” said Ferrell. “I fear how much of that we’ll see as the year goes on.” This year’s participation fee was waived in light of the losses restaurants are experiencing amid the pandemic.
But there’s also reason to celebrate, Ferrell said. The campaign is in its fifth year, and as a way to honor the contributions of Black businesses to the community, they’ve established the “Black Plate Awards” this year, where diners will get to vote on categories like best chef, restaurant, etc. They’ve also figured out a slew of virtual events to successfully accompany the campaign, like restaurant bingo and an online bartending competition, that offer new platforms to support Black-owned restaurants.
New Orleans Black Restaurant Week runs today, October 2 through Sunday, October 11. Check the Black Restaurant Week website for more details and a full list of participating New Orleans-area restaurants.
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