Empty your bellies and block off your calendars: another restaurant week is here. Only this time around, the focus is not just on the food, but also the chefs and business owners behind it.
Nov. 4 through 11 is DMV Black Restaurant Week — a seven-day lineup of competitions, conversations, conferences and meal deals at bars, restaurants and coffee shops throughout the D.C. area.
Georgetown University professor Erinn Tucker, bar consultant Andra Johnson and chef/entrepreneur Furard Tate are the organizers behind the event that aims to shine a spotlight on an underrepresented population in the hospitality industry.
"Here in the DMV, there is just so much talent, but at the same time, I've been reading a lot of stories that say, 'Where are the black chefs? And where are the black managers and (general managers)?' And they're actually here, but there's no platform," said Tucker, who holds a Ph.D. in hospitality administration.
Similar to a traditional restaurant week model, diners can expect to find prix fixe meal specials at a handful of participating restaurants. Businesses that don't have the ability to serve multicourse meals — including coffee shops and fast-casual or carryout establishments — will offer discounts on menu items.
"We're asking that the consumer be more educated in what they eat, where they eat, how they eat, because then that literally changes the whole industry," said Tate, who ran a barbecue restaurant on H Street before he was pushed out to make room for a new development.
"We, as a community, (can) begin to build and sustain these restaurants for years to come."
In addition to highlighting professionals already in the industry, DMV Black Restaurant Week wants to help those interested in joining the culinary arts. Tate said there are plenty of schools and training programs in the area for teens and young adults who want jobs. What's missing is the support they need to land those jobs once they graduate.
"There's a bridge that needs to be built right now," Tucker added.
Setting future generations up for success and other topics, such as raising capital and sustaining business relationships, will be a part of the culminating all-day educational conference at University of the District of Columbia on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Other events throughout the week include a cocktail competition on Nov. 5 and a conversation at The Wing on Nov. 8 with Elle Simone of the SheChef movement, which works to bridge gender and race gaps in the kitchen.
A list of participating restaurants, as well as tickets and information to the week's events, are available on DMV Black Restaurant Week's website. Both Tucker and Tate said the week is just the beginning to what they hope is a continuing conversation and calendar of programming.