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Food to the desert

Houston star chefs serve up tasty food event to help locals in need

Houston star chefs serve up tasty food event to help locals in need

Food Apartheid Dinner Series Jonny Rhodes Dawn Burrell Chris Williams Dominick Lee
Chefs Jonny Rhodes, Dawn Burrell, Chris Williams, and Dominick Lee. Photo by Jenn Duncan

Four of Houston's most-prominent African American chefs are teaming up to combat food desserts. Dawn Burrell (Kulture), Dominick Lee (Poitín), Jonny Rhodes (Indigo), and Chris Williams (Lucille’s) have teamed up to form the Food Apartheid Dinner Series (F.A.D.S.).

Together, the chefs will host three dinners to raise money for and awareness of food deserts across Houston. Held throughout September, the events will culminate with a block party at Indigo that will benefit Trinity Gardens — the neighborhood where the restaurant resides and a recognized food desert, according to the chefs.

"I think the four of us coming together to do this speaks volumes. This isn’t for our own benefit," Williams said in a statement. "It’s truly us teaming up to sow back into the communities that have inspired and raised us. We are so fortunate to have access to the best produce and proteins that money can buy, now it’s our turn to give back and educate others."

Here's the schedule:

  • Wednesday, September 4: Family-style collaboration dinner at Poitín that features compressed tomato salad with charred corn and pickled shrimp, smoked waterfowl with yellow barbecue sauce, whole roasted jerk snapper, and more. The $80 tickets include vodka pairings.
  • Tuesday, September 10: Hybrid family-style meal and coursed dinner at Kulture. Dishes include wagyu chili tartare, whole suckling pig stuffed with shiitake forcemeat, whole fish with tamarind sauce and collard green salad, and more. Tickets ($125) include wine pairings.
  • Wednesday, September 18: Nine-course collaboration dinner at Lucille's. The nine-course meal takes its inspiration from recipes created by Lucille B. Smith — Williams' great grandmother and the restaurant’s namesake. Tickets ($225) include wine and cocktail pairings.
  • Tuesday, September 24: A garden party at Indigo that will feature games, cooking demonstrations, music, and more. Proceeds from the three previous events will be used to purchase fresh produce and proteins for members of the community. Tickets are free, but attendees are asked to register in advance.

Tickets for all three dinners and free registration for the garden party may be acquired via Eventbrite. Those who wish to attend all four events may opt for a combination ticket ($375) that represents a discount versus buying all three individually ($430).

Rhodes has attracted national acclaim, including a James Beard Award semifinalist nomination, for the way Indigo explores not just African American culinary traditions but also the political and social circumstances that shaped them. Just as he uses his platform to speak about topics such as mass incarceration and slavery, the series' name, a reference to enforced legal segregation, prompts people to think about the way access to fresh food separates people.

The reality is that millions of people that reside in lower-income areas have restricted access to fresh food and ingredients. They want to make better decisions when it comes to feeding their families, but the combination of the lack of food education and ingredient access makes it nearly impossible," Rhodes added. "Our restaurant is smack dab in the middle of one of Houston’s many food deserts. I grew up in this community, and we talk to kids all of the time that aren’t even aware that food grows from the ground."