‘Foodie Heaven’: Opening the Gates for Emerging Black Chefs in Chicago

Bloggers, brunches, holidays, social and even work events all revolve around food. For food lovers, admirers, and appreciators, food festivals are a prime time to experience unique cuisines across the city. The Foodie Heaven Event Series is no different. It provides a fun and casual platform for emerging Black chefs in Chicago.

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Foodie Heaven

Foodie Heaven, like other culturally specific food events( Stange Food Festival), gathers together emerging and veteran black chefs from various parts of Chicago. The event was hosted by Deon Posley, I.AM.G, and Paradigm Creative Group and brought together seven Chicagoland chefs for an evening of eating, drinking, and socializing in one the cities most dynamically changing west side neighborhoods, Pilsen. The group of predominantly African-American chefs shared homemade dishes and desserts recipes with guests, that as of recently were only reserved for close friends and family.

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Tacana and her Tacana’s Kitchen Team

The Black Chefs

The dishes that were served at the Food Heaven event were synonymous with my observations of the black food culture in Chicago.  After spending time with my close friend and her family who are from the South Side, I have learned a couple of things about the black food scene here. Jerk seasoning reigns supreme. Pork is not always present, and desserts are ALWAYS present. This was pretty reflective at the event and reflected in some of the guest favorites:  Jerk Nachos by DJs Jerk Everything, the N0-Nana Banana Pudding from Tacans Kitchen, the Turkey Chili from Yes! She Cooks, Classic Macaroni and Cheese from Chef Sy’s Catering, French Toast Souffle Cleo’s Southern Cuisine, and the sold-out dessert parfaits from Emeche Cupcakes. Some of my favorites from the evening also included the Turkey Lasagne from Yes! She Cooks as well as the D’Usse infused cupcakes from YourGourmet Girl.

DJ Owner of Dj’s Jerk Everything
Tacans Kitchen
Turkey Lasange from Yes! She Cooks
D’usse infused cupcakes from Your Gourmet Girl

Not only was the food great but the stories and journeys of these fantastic black chefs as well. Many in the room, like Zeniea Laws of Ze Wine and Food, shared that the Foodie Heaven event was a launch and significant exposure for her as she embraced her new role and longtime passion of becoming an entrepreneur and full-time chef.  David ‘DJ’ Johnson owner of DJ’s Jerk Everything, the only male chef for the event, shared that he would cook for the friends he played basketball with, a winning strategy for him as he entered into the food game. Kristen Ashley, of Cleo’s Southern Cuisine, is taking the next big step and opening up her restaurant in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood in the fall of this year. Just like they create their newest dish, these chefs are creating the next significant steps for their businesses.

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Kristen Ashley of Cleo’s Southern Cuisine
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Zeniea Laws of Ze Wine and Food

My Final Thoughts

All in all, this was a great event! Much different than the food festivals that I have experienced over the last few years of living here merely because it was a collective of emerging and veteran black chefs versus established restaurants or food trucks, which made the vibe more welcoming and relaxed. It’s rare to find an event quite like this where the focus is about the chefs and what is driving them to create something good for themselves and the culture. The chefs are #ratedhaute by me. I think any of them would be perfect for a special event such as a baby shower, wedding party or even a corporate function. I am excited to see the next round of chefs for the April series of Foodie Heaven and wish nothing but the best for all of the foodies involved with this event!

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