High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America

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Of course there will be crab cakes at Wes Moore’s inaugural ball​


January 17, 2023

Governor-elect Wes Moore's wife, Dawn Moore, takes a tour of the convention center and its kitchen with head chef Gregory Pittman to discuss the food and dishes served at the upcoming gala on January 10, 2023.

Governor-elect Wes Moore's wife, Dawn Moore, takes a tour of the convention center and its kitchen with head chef Gregory Pittman to discuss the food and dishes served at the upcoming inaugural gala.


Days before he was set to host 8,000-plus guests, chef Gregory Pittman emanated an enviably serene energy.
“Everyone can’t be nervous,” he said, standing in the lobby of the Baltimore Convention Center, waiting for the future First Lady of Maryland to arrive in an SUV.

Moments later, , Dawn Flythe Moore stepped through the door wearing a mustard-yellow coat and a scarf with black-eyed Susans, Maryland’s state flower, across her shoulders.
They reviewed details for the following week’s “People’s Ball” celebrating the inauguration of Maryland’s first Black Governor, Wes Moore. The menu will feature local flavors old and new. And of course, there will be crab cakes.
“I’m amazed at how many people you can serve at one time,” Moore told Pittman. “I pride myself on a good birthday party for my kids. But this is just, I mean, it is just phenomenal.”

“It’s a big birthday party,” Pittman replied.
Planning for the ball’s menu started in December, when Pittman hosted a tasting for Maryland’s next first family at the convention center. Working with the future first couple, Pittman said, has been an “easygoing and appreciative experience.”
Particularly as a Black chef, Pittman feels “elated” to be cooking for the state’s first Black governor, who “looks like me,” he said. A 38-year-old native of Memphis, Tennessee, Pittman has been cooking since he was 7.

He’s ready to show Maryland what he can do. “I want to be a face for other people that look like me,” he said.
Anticipation over the Democratic governor’s arrival is high in Baltimore, a majority Black and Democratic city. Tickets to the inaugural ball at Baltimore’s convention center sold out in less than a month, though more have been added since. The prices ranged from $50 for general admission to $1,500 for access to a lounge with open bar.
The event will bring some sparkle to downtown Baltimore, which has suffered from the coronavirus and the loss of business from tourism and office workers. During the pandemic, the convention center morphed into a field hospital, treating around 1,500 patients.

The inaugural ball will be the largest event at the center since before the coronavirus.
“You’re going to see huge economic impact from this event,” Moore said, adding that she wants it to “affect the community in a way that I hope has never been seen before.”
Last Tuesday, the kitchen at the Baltimore Convention Center was quiet — and spotless. That will change Wednesday, when a staff of 60, including what Pittman calls some “big guns” flown in for the occasion, will be clanging away over hot stoves.

Please be careful,” Pittman urged the future first lady as they walked through the room. The floor was slick.
Moore’s high-heeled boots, she laughed, were “maybe not the best” footwear for the occasion. “But I’m pretty agile.” She made it across the room with a smile — and not a wobble.

They discussed the menu for the event: comfort food, with a little something extra.
“I just feel like when you’re celebrating, you should eat comfort food, you should be eating the things that make you feel good, that make you happy,” said Moore. “Wes and I care very deeply about how people feel.” She called the ball the governor’s “first act as governor.’
Guests will get treated to a rockfish taco station, highlighting Maryland’s state fish. Look for Maryland pit beef and macaroni and cheese bites. There will be 7,500 mini crab cakes — as though not having crab on the menu of a Maryland governor were even an option.

Jamaican and West Indian dishes will reflect the Moores’ cultural background. A selection of Indian dishes will pay tribute to the state’s diversity and the heritage of the incoming Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller, who was born in Hyderabad, India.
Desserts will include locally made options like Taharka Brothers ice cream and treats from Popsations Popcorn Company. Also on hand: Berger cookies and mini Smith Island cakes, and a Maryland peach square dessert bar.
Food from the ball that isn’t eaten will get sent to places like the Maryland Food Bank and nearby Helping Up Mission, as well as Frederick’s Rescue Mission, Pittman said.
The cuisine, like the event’s “celebratory chic” dress code, is designed to make guests feel welcome, said the future first lady. They want to show that they mean to live up to her husband’s campaign motto: “Leave no one behind.”

Once the future first family settles into the governor’s mansion in Annapolis, Moore, a self-described foodie, said she’s hoping to make time for date nights to Baltimore — her favorite spots include Charleston and Blk Swan. She and her husband have also been getting recommendations for destinations in the state capital. Her two children, Mia and James, “love to eat out, too.”
Both the incoming governor and lieutenant governor “love to cook,” Moore said, adding that her husband is the chief cook in their household. The incoming governor cooks West Indian dishes he learned from his Cuban-born grandmother, such as oxtails. “He’s very good on the grill.”
You can give him a recipe, but, his wife says, proudly, “What he really loves to do is pull from whatever’s in the cabinet.”
For her part, she said, “I love to cook soul food, so that’s why I should only cook twice a year. Because you shouldn’t eat [it more often than that],” she said.
“Healthy eating is something that I care very passionately about,” she said. “I think you can enjoy your food, right? But I think we have to be mindful that it really does affect our bodies.”
 

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*nine minute report


Decades-old ordinance gives food cart monopoly in French Quarter​

Feb 15, 2023
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A decades-old decision paved the way for a monopoly of sorts in the French Quarter.
Lucky Dogs’ bright red carts have become an iconic part of the French Quarter. However, they’re also the only pushcart vendor allowed to sell food in the area. Local food merchants say that decision shuts them out of the city’s most lucrative tourist area. They also say it makes it harder for them to get name recognition and grow their businesses enough to purchase brick-and-mortar locations
 

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Inside the Whiskey-Cupcake Collaboration Helping HBCUs​


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Feb 20, 2023

Two woman-owned and founded companies, Uncle Nearest and SusieCakes, have joined forces to raise money for historically Black colleges and universities during Black History Month as a part of Uncle Nearest’s #HBCUChallenge.

How the collaboration came to be​

The idea of the collaboration first came together in 2021. Fawn Weaver, the CEO and Founder of Black-owned whiskey company Uncle Nearest, has traditionally ordered SusieCakes treats for important events in her life, and so have her employees. So combining two of life’s best treats—cake and alcohol—seemed like a natural next step. Weaver sent whiskey to SusieCakes and, with the help of the company’s executive baker, the ideas soon started to flow. The two businesses landed on creating a delectable vanilla cupcake with whiskey-infused buttercream. Sarich said she was overjoyed to work on a project with a fellow woman-run business. “One of the values of our company is ‘We are good neighbors,’ so we’re very involved in our communities and that is usually around female empowerment,” she noted. “I’ve always been a fan girl of Fawn and so as it all came together, it just made perfect sense.”

The cupcakes are sold individually and in packages of 4-12 cupcakes and a portion of the sales go straight to the #HBCUChallenge. As of Valentine’s week, over 10,000 of the collaboration cupcakes were sold, contributing to thousands of dollars in the donation fund

Uncle Nearest aims to raise one million dollars for historically Black colleges and universities starting with Black History Month, February 1, 2023, and ending with Women’s History Month, or March 31, 2023. The top 58 ranked HBCUs will receive donations; 10% of the total donation pool will go to number one-ranked HBCU, Spelman College.
 

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Magic Johnson surprises Morgan students during visit to newly renovated dining hall
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Feb 20, 2023
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, five time NBA champion, will set foot on Morgan State’s campus on Monday to tour the campus where his company SodexoMagic serves as the university’s dining services provider.
SodexoMagic was founded in 2006 and began its partnership with Morgan in 2020 with a five-year, nearly $45 million agreement that was unanimously approved by Morgan’s Board of Regents. The conglomerate has partnerships with K-12 schools, healthcare and corporate facilities, and colleges and universities, including HBCUs.
Morgan is now one of eight HBCUs partnered with SodexoMagic, including Grambling State University and Florida A&M University.
In regards to his vision for SodexoMagic and HBCUs, he said he prioritizes employing students at HBCUs and looks forward to bringing in Chef G. Garvin, SodexoMagic’s chief culinary advisor, to inspire students to cook healthier options for themselves.
On Monday, Johnson looks forward to seeing the new Thurgood Marshall Dining Hall where meals are served by SodexoMagic.
The dining hall was designed and constructed as part of the contract. Opened in January.


 
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