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Cool pop-up alert: New dinner series features 13 African American chefs

Organizers say they want to create a new platform for black chefs in Philly and beyond.

Kurt Evans and Elijah Milligan plating food at the African American Museum during Black Restaurant Week 2018.
Kurt Evans and Elijah Milligan plating food at the African American Museum during Black Restaurant Week 2018.Read moreCourtesy of Elijah Milligan

A new pop-up dinner series in town has one focus: Put the spotlight on black chefs.

"Cooking for the Culture" will hold its inaugural event Monday with a 10-course meal, prepared by a lineup of 13 African American chefs. South, the restaurant where cofounding chef Kurt Evans is based, will be the setting.

"We thought it would be cool to set a platform for other African American chefs to collaborate and cook," said Elijah Milligan of catering, events and consulting firm Au Terroir. When it comes to cuisines of the black diaspora, upscale dining options are few in Philadelphia despite the city's sizable black population. The platform, Milligan said, is "not there, and it's not available, so we decided to create it."

Some of the proceeds will go toward chef knives, jackets, and custom aprons for aspiring culinary students of color. Milligan said they're also working to establish a scholarship at Montgomery County Community College.

As they plan plates, Evans and Milligan hope the food will dismantle stereotypes that limit black chefs to soul food. Milligan promised rabbit ravioli, stuffed quail, and a French-Moroccan take on lamb belly, but was keeping the rest of the menu secret.

Response to the event was swift and positive. Tickets, at $75, sold out in 10 days. Peers in the restaurant scene have reacted warmly.

"We have chefs lining up for the next event," Evans said.

They've received interest from chefs in other cities; touring nationally with the event is already in talks. If you missed tickets and are hankering to attend, "Cooking for the Culture" plans at least one or two more installments in Philly before it is exported. Locals can expect another feast in late August.

"We really want to expand and impact the culinary industry as a whole," Milligan said, but "we don't want to start in Philadelphia, get people excited, and then leave town."

Here's who'll be cooking Monday:

  1. Malik Ali of Ralph's Cafe.

  2. Kurt Evans of South.

  3. Gregory Headon of Starr Restaurants.

  4. Elijah Milligan of Au Terroir.

  5. Joy Parham-Thomas of Malvern Buttery.

  6. Chris Paul of Everything We Eat.

  7. Victor Pinckney, private chef.

  8. Lauren Smith of Citizens Bank Park.

  9. Omar Tate of Peaches Shrimp & Crab.

  10. Robert Toland of Terrain Cafe.

  11. Jennifer Turnage of Philadelphia University.

  12. Stephanie Willis of Eat Prep Love.

  13. Aziza Young, private chef.