When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Michigan and grassroots networks began forming, it was a time of great uncertainty and isolation. From delivering meals to homebound seniors to stocking community fridges for people who lacked access to healthy food, self-organized volunteers banded together to
help people in need.
Mutual aid is a tenet at the heart of Taste the Diaspora Detroit, co-founded by chefs Jermond Booze and Ederique Goudia and farmer and investor Raphael Wright.
“It is one of the pillars that was really important to us,” says Goudia, who is chef of the highly anticipated Gabriel Hall, opening in Detroit’s West Village. She saw fellow local eateries struggle during the pandemic — especially those with Black chefs and owners at the helm. The three came up with the idea to do shoebox lunches during Black History Month last year, pairing up Black chefs and farmers to create the meals, with all of the proceeds going back to these individuals who “were hit even harder … and were struggling through this pandemic.”
They didn’t expect the outpouring of support they received. They sold out three weeks’ worth of lunches — $10,000 in total — in three days. The meals highlighted foods of the African diaspora, from Creole gumbo to Bajan Brown Stewed Chicken. From there, Booze, Goudia, and Wright hosted more events, including a Juneteenth watch party of the Netflix show High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America and, more recently, a dinner raising money for hurricane relief efforts in Goudia’s hometown of Wallace, Louisiana. Other Detroit chefs, including Baobab Fare’s Hamissi Mamba, came to cook with them.
Mamba’s dish was Baobab’s signature Nyumbani, braised beef with plantains and peanut-stewed spinach, which Goudia says was “heartwarming.”
“[The diners] loved it. It was probably their favorite part of the whole dinner,” she says of the dish, which for her was reminiscent of home.
Baobab Fare was one of the restaurants that participated in last year’s Taste the Diaspora Black History Month events, and it will take part once again for their one-year anniversary. Various other events are in the works for the second annual Taste the Diaspora this month. They include a scavenger hunt with City Institute, a panel at Urban Consulate, and dinner led by Goudia, which takes place at Frame. Shoebox lunches have also returned.
“We want to engage different chefs this time around,” Goudia says. “We want not only to continue evolving the relationships we’ve already built with those who participated last year, but also to provide that experience and that collaboration to different Black chefs, restaurateurs, and people who create food products, as well as farmers who are Black, here in the city and [the greater Detroit area].”
For Goudia personally, Baobab Fare is “hands down” a favorite, because the New Center restaurant serves “absolutely amazing food that really tells a story.”
For more information, visit tastethediaspora.com.
Ederique Goudia’s Go-Tos
Ivy Kitchen and Cocktails
“I enjoy their happy hour there. They have really great bartenders and really great drinks.” Her drink of choice is the Rosemary Blueberry Smash, a mocktail. “I love the aromatics from the rosemary, and then the blueberries and lemonade just go really well together. It’s a real treat whenever I get to go there.” Ivy Kitchen and Cocktails, 9215 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit; 313-332-0607; ivykc.com
Flavors of Jamaica
“I’ve been following [Flavors of Jamaica owner] Reniel [Billups] since her pop-up days at Detroit City Distillery and Brooklyn Street Local. I was always the first customer in line. I fell in love with not only her food, but her amazing energy, and the love that she shared with every customer.” Flavors of Jamaica, 406 N. Telegraph Road, Pontiac; flavorsofjamaicarestaurant.com
Good Cakes and Bakes
While Goudia says she’s enjoyed pretty much anything she’s had at this sweet destination on the Avenue of Fashion, her “absolute favorite” is the vegan carrot cake. “You would never know that it was vegan. It is so moist and so flavorful.” Good Cakes and Bakes, 19363 Livernois, Detroit; 313-468-9915; goodcakesandbakes.com
Sweet Potato Sensations
“I love the fried turkey chop served with regular sweet potato grits and sweet potato pancakes,” says the fan of this Old Redford staple. “That and the salmon croquettes.” Sweet Potato Sensations, 17337 Lahser Road, Detroit; 313-532-7996; sweetpotatosensations.com
The Royal Oak French bistro has been a favorite of Goudia’s for years. “Whenever I am out that way, I always make sure that I stop in.” Her go-to is the Sea Breeze, which boasts marinated shrimp, sun-dried tomato, bacon, red onion, and Parmesan cheese in a garlic herb crepe topped with pesto. She always adds eggs to make it brunch-worthy. “It’s a really intimate space. … They’re always playing really great music. Their staff is really amazing. It’s one of those places where everybody knows you by name.” Le Crepe, 317 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-629-9391; lecreperestaurant.com