The gastronomic offerings were impressive: there was pan-seared Arctic char served with a barley and Japanese purple rice risotto cake; pollo con mole blanco; bobotie, a South African dish of ground beef, curry, egg custard and sliced almonds; and grilled panini made with Taleggio cheese, applewood-smoked bacon and mango chutney. The holiday season is the perfect time to delight the senses with a culinary experience, and the BCA’s Ninth Annual Global Food & Wine Experience was an inspiring event where more than 50 chefs and wine merchants came together not only to present a culinary exploration but also to support the BCA in its endeavors of fostering diversity in the hospitality industry.
Founded in 1993 by three graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and incorporated as the Black Culinarian Alliance in 1998, the organization is a global, not-for-profit committed to providing opportunities in the food service and hospitality industries to people, particularly young adults, from diverse backgrounds.
Alex Askew, president of the BCA, said that over the past nine years, he believes that the commitment of advancing diversity in the culinary and hospitality industry, a cornerstone of the BCA mission, has never been more important. “The food service industry remains a business sector that continues to grow,” he said. “The focus on mentoring only assists in supporting career choices and advancing one’s chances for better opportunities. What we do at the BCA is provide a bridge between the educational sector and the real-life industry sector.”
Held on Nov. 29, at Guastavino’s Midtown, in New York, the BCA event was an occasion for chefs at New York restaurants, such as Brooklyn Commune, Crowne Plaza Times Square, Damascus Bakeries, Fonda Restaurant, Madiba and Melba’s to name a few, to serve up savory creations to about 275 guests who sampled dishes and wines while listening to the rhythmic sounds of The Roland Steel Drum Band.
Kevin A. Young, a wine educator who was pouring wines from the Hudson River Valley’s Brotherhood Winery, the oldest winery in America, described his participation as essential. “This is my second year at this event, and I believe it’s important to encourage young folks to consider the culinary and hospitality business,” he said. Glenn Gilliam, founder of Reel Dreamz Entertainment and a guest at the food fest, said that events such as this should be supported because the coordination and collaboration are important for interlocking support. “It brings together constituents of multicultural organizations that can benefit from the networking affiliations as well as funding opportunities,” he said.
According to the latest report from the National Restaurant Association, total restaurant industry sales are expected to reach a record high of $632 billion in 2012, which is a 3.5 percent increase over 2011, marking the second consecutive year that industry sales have topped $600 billion.
Chef Omar Lorenzana of the Crowne Plaza said that working with the BCA gives him a perfect opportunity to give back. “It is a hard industry, whether someone wants to be a chef at a restaurant or become a caterer; it’s important for me to show students that it is possible they can have a rewarding career in this industry.”
Connecting schools with companies for education and training experience, the BCA has programs set up with four schools in New York: Brooklyn Job Corps Academy, Bronx Job Corps, FEDCAP and Star Career Academy of New York. Christian Gomez, a student at Brooklyn Job Corps who was working at the event commented that attending the affair is an important way for people who don’t know a lot about the food industry to come and see what it’s all about. Joanna Rosario, a student also from Brooklyn Job Corps, said, “I want to become a chef, so I’m really into seeing people get excited about all the different foods they are about to eat.”
TNJ caught up with Askew after the event to get his thoughts as the BCA gears up to celebrate its 10th anniversary. “The plan for next year is to continue the growth and success of this year’s event, and we would also like to include more themes around sustainability and farm-to-table," he says. “Since this is the nation's only multiethnic food and wine event, it makes a lot of sense to take this same format to multiple cities. There are many chefs who could benefit from the exposure as well as wine and spirit brands eager to gain exposure in new markets. Off the top of my head, the Atlanta area and Detroit would benefit immensely.”
Photo: Courtesy of the BCA