Feed the Soul Highlights Food and History of Black Communities
Edmonton’s newest dining week aims to increase support for Black food entrepreneurs, as well as raise awareness about some of the barriers they face.
The inaugural Feed the Soul Dining Week will run from Feb. 10 to 17, in the middle of Black History Month. The event will see 18 local Black-owned food and hospitality businesses offer deals during that period. For example, Jamaican eatery Flava Cafe will kick off festivities with $5 jerk chicken on Feb. 10.
Feed the Soul is the brainchild of Rochelle Ignacio of Enid Rose Collective, who separately manages the volunteer initiative Black Owned Market YEG. Ignacio is co-leading Dining Week with Sara Awatta, founder of YEG Services.
Awatta points out that the eclectic mix of participating retailers represents the spectrum of Black-owned businesses in Edmonton. “Our locations vary all over the city,” said Awatta. “We have businesses like Allegro Italian Kitchen that have been around for more than 10 years and businesses like PhatBar Bakery that are opening just this week. Dine-in, take-out, online-only — this reflects the diversity of the Black food scene in Edmonton.”
A volunteer-run event, Feed the Soul came about when Ignacio was housebound with COVID, and binge-watched a Netflix docuseries called High on the Hog. The show exposes the thread that links cuisines in Africa to those found in the United States, based on recipes adapted by enslaved people.
The idea of contextual changes to food resonated with Ignacio. “Both of my parents are from Trinidad, and growing up here, on Sunday we had traditional Trinidadian food,” said Ignacio. “One of the dishes they served is red beans and rice. I thought it always came with onion and tomato and bacon. But when I went to Trinidad, I learned that they don’t put bacon. My mom adapted the dish to ingredients she could find.”
Ignacio found similar modification stories when speaking to Black restaurant owners during her outreach. But what she also found was a striking number of Black businesses that simply didn’t make it through the pandemic. Her team consulted lists posted in 2020 by Linda Hoang and Ashley Otieno, and found that 14% of them had closed since then.
“Why aren’t Black restaurants thriving the way their counterparts are? Why are these restaurants empty even though the food is good?” said Ignacio. “We want Feed the Soul to expose people to new restaurants and make them household names. Sometimes people are scared to try new food or need the invitation to try.”
Sara Awatta and Rochelle Ignacio of Feed the Soul Dining Week
Ignacio and Awatta are also using Feed the Soul as an opportunity to build the capacity of the business owners themselves. For instance, all digital images and videos captured over the course of the event will be provided back to each business, so they can use the assets in their own marketing efforts.
In addition, by facilitating meetings between participating entrepreneurs, they have been able to foster the development of supportive connections.
“The business owners are talking about where they’re sourcing their chicken, where they’re renting kitchen space, what hours are working best, what are their expansion plans,” said Ignacio.
“I’m excited to see what future collaborations will happen,” added Awatta. “We’re starting to see things that are in the works from that networking.”
Feed the Soul has also partnered with Glass Bookshop to bring in resources to help Edmontonians learn more about Black food and history. Select titles from Feed the Soul’s book list are available at a 10% discount during the event, and a portion of the revenue generated will be redirected back to Feed the Soul.
At the end of the day, Awatta is looking forward to the gatherings that will happen as a result of the dining week.
“Especially post-COVID, we barely ate at the same table,” said Awatta. “What we’re hoping to accomplish is to bring people together in a capacity that has been lost over the years.”
- PhatBar Bakery and Cafe is celebrating their grand opening on February 11. They are located at 10813 82 Avenue.
- Da Kao Bistro is the newest Vietnamese restaurant to open in Edmonton, located at 9750 180 Street.
- Kilmanjaro VIP, offering authentic Swahili cuisine, is now open at 12433 97 Street.
- New coffee shop alert: Monacci Coffeehouse is now open at 2055 163 Street SW.
- A new dessert concept called Mochi Waffle is now open inside the downtown location of Splash Poke (10079 109 Street).
- On the heels of a Tiki Bar opening Downtown, a second will be opening in Old Strathcona called Tiki Tiki on Whyte.
- I missed that Rigoletto’s opened in their new location in December (9802 Jasper Avenue).
- Tres Carnales Rostizado announced their permanent closure as of January 31 after nine years in business. This comes after Tres Carnales also shuttered its doors in January.
- Taco Nova is no longer operating out of Komune as of January 31, 2023.
- One week left on La Poutine Week, which runs until February 14, 2023. 28 restaurants are participating with a feature poutine.
- Old Strathcona’s Sweet Treats & Latte Festival runs February 4-20, 2023, and highlights 17 area businesses.
- Taste of Africa is returning on February 25, 2023 to the Arden Theatre in St. Albert. Tickets are $10.
- Congratulations to Fife N Dekel on 40 years in business!
- In the lead-up to Waffle Bird’s one year anniversary, they are hosting some collaborations and pop-ups at High Level Diner this month, including a burger night with Phil Wilson on February 13.
- Chef Serge Belair of the Edmonton Convention Centre picked up the bronze medal in the Canadian Culinary Championship that took place in Ottawa over the weekend.
- Lots of great cafes and roasters are up for Th3rdWave awards – vote for your favourites before February 12.
- It’s hard to believe Valentine’s Day is next week! I’ve shared before my thoughts on dining out on that day, but I do like the idea of picking up some themed treats to celebrate. There are lots of local options to choose from, including sweets from Sugared and Spiced, dinner from Culina, charcuterie from Meuwly’s, and BreadLove, Zwick’s, and Doughnut Party’s Valentine’s Day Drops through The Public.
- Tenants at Manchester Square’s, including newcomer Rhubarb Cafe, feel optimistic about the development.
- Alongside the Zellers popping up in Bay locations in the spring, you can also expect Zellers-branded food trucks serving up some of their classic items from the restaurant.
- The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction updated its guidelines on alcohol consumption. Their recommendation is for no more than two alcoholic drinks per week.
- A reusable container service called DishZero has launched at the University of Alberta.
- 40 people from different organizations gathered to discuss food insecurity and collaboration possibilities.
What I Ate
- Thanks to everyone who came out to support Chinatown Dining Week! We heard some great feedback from the businesses (including Kim Fat, who sold 1100 pounds of chicken skin during the event). My family certainly in our share of meals over the 11 days!
Pho and bun bo Hue from Co Chin Saigon
Ginger beef from Padmanadi
Bun bo Hue from King Noodle
- Mack and I were also able to duck out for our first date night since Elizabeth was born. We had a lovely dinner at Uccellino – on the rare occasions that we dine in, we remember why take-out will never replace great hospitality.
Goat ricotta crostini from Uccellino
- I also had the chance to attend the media preview of Feed the Soul Dining Week. There were many tasty bites to be had, including these delectable red velvet cakes from Layered by Rissa.
Red velvet cake cups from Layered by Rissa