Cooking for the culture: Philly’s 2nd annual Black Restaurant Week

From left, Chefs Elijah Milligan, Carl Lewis, and Yusef McCoy at the Black Restaurant Week 2019 preview event held at Drexel University's Academic Bistro on May 20. (TrenaeNuri/WHYY)

From left, Chefs Elijah Milligan, Carl Lewis, and Yusef McCoy at the Black Restaurant Week 2019 preview event held at Drexel University's Academic Bistro on May 20. (TrenaeNuri/WHYY)

Loaded seafood pasta, peach lemonade infused with CBD oil, and savory wings were served at the Black Restaurant Week 2019 preview Monday at Drexel University’s Academic Bistro.

“I was shocked by the soul presence,” said Falayn Ferrell, co-founder of Black Restaurant Week, as she described Philadelphia’s black culinary community. “I appreciate the culture of community in Philly. It’s soulful.”

Black Restaurant Week is an annual, multi-city culinary movement that started in Houston in 2016.

Now, in its second year in Philadelphia, the culinary fest highlights African American, African, and Caribbean American foods such as Chef Carl Lewis’ Island Wings at 48th Street Grille.

Yusef McCoy, the owner of Bistro 870, has been catering since he was 14 years old. McCoy says his American soul food style of cooking honors his grandmother’s cooking.

“Her cooking wasn’t just for the house. It was for everybody,” McCoy said as he recalled memories of eating at his family’s West Philadelphia home.

His loaded seafood pasta is a mixture of shrimp, lobster, crab and salmon. McCoy’s “Love Wings” is made of the things he loves — Hennessy, honey and sriracha.

“If you don’t cook with love, it shows,” McCoy said.

Chef Elijah Milligan of Stove and Tap bar and grille in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, is featuring innovative techniques at the festival. One is using CBD flavors in food.

Chef Elijah Milligan’s peach lemonade infused with CBD oil at the preview event of Black Restaurant Week 2019 at Drexel University’s Academic Bistro. (TrenaeNuri/WHYY)

During the preview, he served spinach, chard, and leek empanadas and grilled octopus with clementine.

His parents own the Just to Serve You restaurants in Wilmington and West Philadelphia.

Milligan engages with other black culinary professionals through a group called Cooking for the Culture.

“That community is birthing a lot of young chefs,” Ferrell said. “Their cooking is so unique.”

Ferrell said the festival is expected to have a bartender competition and workshops.


The festival runs June 9-June 23. Visit phillybrw.com for more information about Philadelphia’s Black Restaurant Week.

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