[RECAP] NYC Celebrates African Restaurant Week

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Last night, New Yorkers came out to celebrate the 2nd Annual Edible Bazaar Benefit. The site of the event, Taj Lounge, a two-floor, dimly lit, swanky cocktail lounge, set the mood for a fun and laid-back evening with Indian inspired decor and soulful African music that kept the crowd of young professionals on the dance floor. While attendees danced and dined on everything from Jollof rice, Cous Cous, Suya Mear and Red Stew, vendors showcased their products rooted in African culture, such as sauces, over-sized bangles and coffee.

“I attended the Edible Bazaar two years ago, but tonight I brought my friend so that we could really soak in a night of African culture, food, and great music, said Sharon Beason, Founder of Womeneur.  Black Enterprise caught up with a few of the chefs, guests, and attendees for some exclusive interviews.

2015 Chef of the Year

Chef Joseph JJ Johnson, known for cooking Afro-Asian inspired meals at The Cecil Harlem, was honored as the 2015 Chef of the Year. “My food is based on the study of  African Diaspora. I take people through the migration of how slaves impacted the world through food trade. But, also, the migration of the Vietnamese and Chinese impacted West Africa through food as well. I’m greatly inspired by history. When you go to Ghana or Senegal, you see Chinese influences, but nobody talks about it. My favorite ingredients: bird’s eye chili, shallots, ginger, garlic, white onion and tomatoes—you’ll see that a lot in my food. Follow Chef JJ on Instagram, Chef Joe Johnson on Twitter and/or visit  me at the Cecil restaurant at 210 West 118th street in Harlem, NY.

Nafi’s Hot Pepper Condiments & Nafi’s Original cooking sauces.

“My sauces are inspired by West African traditions. New York is so eclectic, but nobody really knows African food. When I couldn’t find African products on the shelf, I knew I needed to start my own business. Right now I’m one of the only African businesses in Whole Foods Market in New York—my top seller is the peanut sauce, which is almost like a tomato sauce that you can add to fish, chicken, or vegetables. My main customers are Caucasian. I even have 85-year-old grandmothers who love my peanut sauce. My sauces are all natural with no preservatives. My mission is to show that African food is for everyone.” You can visit my website Nafis Products or follow me on follow Nafisproducts on Instagram.”

Chef Eric Adjepong

“I prepared the Jollof Rice cracker, beef suya, sweet plantains puree and much more. Most of my dishes were based on staple breakfast and dinner food in Ghana.

My favorite ingredient is salt. But I also really like staple ingredients, things that you absolutely need to use, like eggs, garlic, and I love chicken sauce. It’s such a blessing to have my food so well received in New York City. This lets me know the hard work that I’ve been putting in, for almost half my life, is worth it. “

Chef Idrissa Diarra and Zuhirah Khaldun-Diarra, owners of Chez Diarra, or “the house of the lion” produces a line of artisanal, vegan, and sugar-free sauces inspired by traditional African cuisine.

“We started Chez Diarra about a year ago. My husband is a chef from Africa. He was making sauces for us at home and at different Caribbean restaurants. I was gobbling it up, so I knew we were on to something. Then we started bottling up the sauces and selling it to markets in Harlem, like Sugar Hill market, Boulevard Bistro in Harlem. We also sell online.”

“Our most popular sauce is Foronto, because it’s a traditional, versatile, and it’s really great on everything, like grilled veggies, and even eggs.  I even put some in my pasta, to give it a little kick. “

The Peanut Pima is our most unique offering and a favorite at the Sugar Hill Market. It’s a traditional take on the hot sauce. You can simply use it as a condiment. Our products are all natural– sugar and dairy-free. We want to be the next sriracha sauce. We’re hoping to sell our product throughout the world.”

On Saturday, June 13, the celebration of New York African Restaurant Week continues with Ms. Iya Oge Food & Fashion Showcase.”