Nigerian-born chef Tunde Wey is bringing social issues like racial wealth inequality to the dinner table. Wey made national headlines in March as the curator of Saartj, a month-long lunch counter in New Orleans which highlighted disparities in the city. People of color were charged $12 for a plate while white people were offered the option of paying either $12 or $30. From May 2-5, Wey will bring a version of the dining concept to Hamtramck.
Inside Bank Suey, a community space off of Joseph Campau, Wey will present what the Washington Post called “discomfort food,” a culinary experience that fosters a much needed dialogue about race, privileges, and inequalities. “Discomfort is an opportunity to get to somewhere else. [But] I don’t advocate discomfort for discomfort’s sake,” says Wey. “This is about moving [from discomfort] to action.”
The theme for the Hamtramck series is “Black City Black Power,” emphasizing conversation on self-determination and community transformation in Detroit, a largely African American city. “The dinner is a commentary on the state of Detroit.” says Wey. “[It’s about] examining community-based power as opposed to capital-based power. How can we fortify communities? How do we invest in organizations and people that are [promoting] self-determination?”
To that end, Wey will highlight the work of Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and FoodLab, nonprofits which use food as a means towards community-run development. “I want to highlight and uplift [their] work because it’s work I aspire toward,” says Wey.
During the pop-up, Wey will offer a tailored dining experience for guests. Each diner will be asked to fill out a questionnaire and their plates will reflect their privileges based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, and more. Guests will be seated next to people they don’t know. There is even a required reading that is integral to the dining experience.
“The idea for the dinners is to talk about what true community transformation looks like. And what I am positing is that we can transform communities to make them more sustainable and viable.” says Wey. “We can do that [with] folks in the community controlling their outcomes and what their community chooses to be.”
Wey says he’s not attempting to resolve disparities. Instead, the series is about driving attention to issues. “It’s alluding to disparities. The work can only do what it can do. It’s not transformative in the sense that after a dinner, products of historic and systematic [injustice] will be solved or breached in any meaningful way,” says Wey. “We’re going to talk about it. Talking about it and working with people who are doing the work locally and nationally [is a part of] shifting problems towards the ledge of solvability.”
Reservation forms and tickets are available at saartj.com.
May 2-5. Pricing varies. 10345 Joseph Campau Ave, Hamtramck; banksuey.com