New York’s First African Food Festival Brings the Diversity of the Continent to Your Plate
Petr Hruska

From Ghanaian restaurants in the Bronx to the Senegalese restaurants in Harlem and Nigerian restaurants in Queens, New York offers a diverse range of African food and on August 13 and 14, the NYC African Food Festival will bring even more continental flavors to the city.

The inaugural NYC African Food Festival will bring together chefs and artists from the African diaspora—including Pierre Thiam (Senegal), Dieuveil Malonga (Congo), Zinyusile Khumbula (South Africa), Melchizedek Mensah (Ghana), Joy Parham (U.S), and Grace Odogbili (Nigeria)—to demonstrate their cooking skills with interactive sessions and mini cooking lessons.

“Almost a quarter of all African-born immigrants live in New York or other nearby metro areas,” festival organizer Ishmael Osekre tells ESSENCE. “New York has become a hub of African food in the US, and more and more people outside the diaspora are catching on.”

Chef Pierre Thiam, who was recently featured on CNN’s Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain, is influenced by his travels around Africa. He describes the 2-day festival as “a feast for the senses!” Nigerian-American chef Grace Odogbili will host an Afro-vegan brunch featuring cuisine influence by African and Caribbean countries. From North Africa there’ll be a Shisha lounge (hookah tent) and from East Africa an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

On any given day you can find a Twitter battle about which West African country makes the best Jollof rice, a popular one-pot rice dish cooked in tomato sauce. Even Chef Jamie Oliver was not immune to criticism when he dared make his own version of the much-loved West African rice staple. So in the spirit of friendly competition, the African Food Festival will feature a U.S. “Jollof-Off” where cooks of all levels are encouraged to bring the battle to the festival where a winner will be chosen.

The event organizers say they plan to grow the festival into a few other cities in the US and around the world.

“We think the increase in popularity in African chefs is a huge bonus to the success of the event but the event itself went viral at a time when we didn’t have any dishes and menus on the event or ticketing page which implies that people are simply excited about discovering African food,” added Osekre.

Catch the NYC African Food Festival at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on August 13 and 14.

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