“It’s very rare that there is a black executive chef doing things on a higher level,” Chef Jamie Barnes, one of the five founding chefs who created Soul Food Sessions, said. “That’s one of the key things we’re planning to change. To show there is a whole lot more out there, waiting to break through and be seen.”
And while their mission started in Charlotte, thanks to a partnership with Coca-Cola Consolidated, they are about to expand into three other cities along the East Coast in 2018. They will partner with a local chef to develop unique menus for intimate pop-up dinners in Charlotte, Charleston, Baltimore, and Washington DC. Along the way, they plan to offer more than $10,000 in scholarships to aspiring chefs across each city.
The expanded Soul Food Sessions tour, called “The Table Is Set: A Four-City Tour Served With A Coke” is set to kick off with a reunion dinner in Charlotte June 19, where each of the five founding chefs will again prepare a meal together -- but this time, they’ll be awarding scholarships to students at Johnson & Wales University.
This is possible thanks to their partnership with Coca-Cola Consolidated, the local bottler of Coke products in each of those four markets.
“It’s very exciting to see the stories and see this kind of community involvement, and from the grassroots,” Brian Nick, VP of Communications and Public Affairs for Coca-Cola Consolidated, said. “No one asked these individuals to turn around and help their peers. They did so because they wanted to help others and educate others. We really think these events are the kinds of things that enrich our communities, and help strengthen our communities overall.”
“I always used to say we had a soapbox at first,” Chef Greg Collier, another of Soul Food Session’s founding chefs, said. “[Coca-Cola Consolidated] has given us a stage.”