Greg Baxtrom's Brooklyn restaurant Maison Yaki has been made available to black food professionals for a series of two-week pop-ups. The initiative offers them the platform to showcase their culinary skills and food philosophies, and allows them to enrich the local community with a true and representative expression of its food identity.
Hot on the heels of Food People Plus is the next exciting double-act in this ongoing Black Entrepreneur Pop-Up series, with chef Joe Smalls from B-Raised NYC, and food and wine expert Kilolo Strobert from Get Comfy With Wine on wine, until 27 September.
The Brooklyn born-and-raised duo will be offering up a fortnight of food and wine pairings for takeout and outdoor eating, and if opening night is anything to go by, this is where the party's at. If it's chilly outside, as Smalls says, "put on a hoodie and come out the house and have some food."
Through his B-Raised (Brooklyn Raised) catering company, Smalls is all about bringing different cultures together through food. "I like to do food with no limits, that’s one of my little sayings, one of my hashtags," he explains. For his menu, he's pulling inspiration from the global cultures and cuisines found throughout Brooklyn, showcasing dishes like scallion pancake with braised pork or chicken with a herb chimichurri on top, and pikliz, a Haitian slaw made with scotch bonnet and packed with flavour.
Wine expert Strobert will be showcasing a selection of some of the best wines from black wine producers around the world, from Oregon to Italy and South Africa. "We're also very global," she says, openly "piggybacking" off Smalls's "no limits" food philosophy.
There will also be a selection of wines by the can. "It’s something that's really approachable for people, plus a canned offering way is better for recycling purposes. We are right opposite the park," she jokes. Having spent over 15 years working in the wine industry, Strobert's mission is to get people comfortable with their palate. "Your tongue speaks to you," she explains. Last year she launched Get Comfy with Wine, teaching classes with the aim of empowering wine drinkers with the knowledge to shop, order and drink what they like.
The two food and drink professionals, who share a similar outlook, as well as a formal culinary background, first met at a Brooklyn event. “Joe and I really clicked and really understood each other the moment we met,” says Strobert. “We’re very Brooklyn-centric, even though we’ve both travelled, and are both very worldly in terms of our view of food and wine. We’ve been blessed to understand what being a person of colour means in terms of diversity. That does come with us understanding wine, understanding different cultures and understanding different food."
The pair have both noticed change in their community in recent months, with opportunities beginning to open up a little more and people expressing how they feel more freely. "Right now, with everything that’s happening, especially meeting other people in our industry and seeing how many of us there are, and yet how few of us there are, we are building our community and really stretching out to grow it, and make it a little bit more accessible. That's why I’m 'Get Comfy with Wine' and he’s 'food with no limits'," Strobert says.
"We want people to be able to stick their toe into it and see that there are people that are able to [do things]. We want people to be introduced to it in a way that doesn’t seem daunting or inaccessible, when it is accessible. No matter if it's elitist, high-brow, low-brow - it's part of us."
If food and drink are about removing boundaries, and getting people comfortable and excited about global flavours, then Joe Smalls and Kilolo Strobert are the duo to help them embrace it.