Appetizers 6/8: Restaurants Rally Around the Black Community

Welcome to Appetizers, OpenTable’s weekly column that aims to inspire. This week we are dedicating this column to the Black community and allies who are working to create change and better our society.

Making Us … Proud

This week’s important conversation — the protests around our nation and the world supporting Black Lives Matter and condemning the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black Americans — reached the restaurant world, too. Despite months of hardships from COVID-19, many restaurants and chefs stepped up to contribute to the movement and use their platforms to stand against racism in a variety of ways. Some donated proceeds, others fed protestors, and still others took to social media to voice support.

Like many others around the country, Ode to Babel in Brooklyn pledged some proceeds from last week and this week to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. As Jeremiah Stone of NYC’s Contra wrote in Bon Appétit, “I don’t know if our restaurants are going to make it through the next year or the next couple years. So if we’re going to go out, if this is the last thing we ever do, it might as well mean something.”

His restaurants donated $20,000 in proceeds to the Minnesota Freedom Fund and others. Le Virtu in Philadelphia; Art of the Table in Seattle; Maven, Sons & Daughters, and Prairie in San Francisco; and Fausto and LaLou in New York City are just a few others that donated proceeds, too.

Other restaurants showed support by sharing solidarity with the movement on social media or facilitating time off for their employees to join protests. One Black-owned Atlanta bar, Clues and Cocktails, closed to join the protest and passed out water to anyone in need. Restaurants in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, and more are doing the same type of work.

Making Us … Inspired

In the restaurant industry and food media in the United States, the Black community has been poorly represented. From chefs and restaurateurs to critics and reporters, it is clear there is much work ahead to reach equality.

It’s an important moment for companies to use their platforms to highlight Black leaders who work to help our communities thrive, because representation truly matters. To that end, here are several platforms elevating stories and luminaries from the Black community.

One Instagram account in particular that has been doing this important work for a while is Black Food Folks, which hosts regular conversations with Black chefs on Instagram. Renowned food writer Samin Nosrat has also been featuring Black chefs and industry professionals on her account, including Edouardo Jordan of Salare in Seattle, Kwame Onwuachi of Kith and Kin in D.C., and Tavel Bristol-Joseph of Hestia in Austin.

Other vital follows in this vein include:

  • Afroculinaria, a publication that explores food’s role in the development and definition of African American civilization
  • Black Restaurant Weeks, which spotlights just that across the country
  • Black Food & Beverage, a community of food professionals that celebrates African Americans who shape food and drink culture
  • Soul Phoodie, a blog dedicated to stories on all facets of Black foodways
  • Cuisine Noir, a magazine about the talents of Black chefs around the world

A lot of Black chefs have also been speaking out on social media to offer their thoughts on the movement as it pertains to the restaurant industry. Jordan of Salare wrote, “As a Black business owner, I opened my doors to everyone in hopes of celebrating and educating patrons about Black culture and Black history, while not shying away from the struggles, the oppression, or the appropriation of Black culture.” Read his full statement here.

Making Us … Hungry

Dining may seem like an afterthought with everything going on, but we still have to feed ourselves. So why not do so while supporting the Black community? Find Black-owned restaurants near you to order from, or learn how to make your own gumbo and cornbread from chef Brother Luck. Hear his thoughts on the current situation here.

Making Us … Act

View this post on Instagram

For my foodie friends… ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Many of my followers and friends are foodies, food lovers, and food bloggers. So for all those foodies wondering how the hell they can get involved, here are some small but sustainable acts you can take. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ 1. SPEND BLACK: Black-owned businesses have less access to credit and face unique barriers due to racial discrimination. They're also more likely than other businesses to employ Black folks. So spend your $$$ intentionally and help balance the scales. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ 2. PUT YOUR PHOTOS TO WORK: I see you out there with those magazine quality photos. Order some takeout or delivery from a Black-owned restaurant and make that camera work. Make sure to post your shots on social and on Yelp and Google reviews. As we know in the digital age, visuals MATTER and can really help drive traffic. Email your shots to the restaurant or food business and give them permission to use them for their pages. Give businesses that often don't have the budgets for professional photography or PR firms the chance to shine.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ 3. LISTEN TO BLACK FOOD FOLKS: Seriously. Just listen. Start with folks like @thecookinggene and @from_lagos, and don't forget @smallorchids, @whiteplatesblackfaces and so may others! Read Black food books, learn about Black food histories… ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ 4. AMPLIFY BLACK VOICES: Don't just post a black square and logout. Intentionally share and amplify Black voices, as now is the time to be an ally and ensure they are being heard. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ PS- These are small acts of protest that we can incorporate into our regular lives… They should continue and become part of our routines but they don't substitute for other, more difficult work that's needed. Deep introspection, active anti-racist work, regular voting, etc… ⁠

A post shared by Anela Malik | #DC Blogger (@feedthemalik) on

Previous Appetizers

May 29: California Restaurant Injects Whimsy Into Reopening

May 22: Ayesha Curry Launches a Lifestyle Magazine

May 15: Top Chefs Do Good