Houston's newest food festival
Houston's newest food festival celebrates West African culture with day of food, dance, music, and more
The man behind Houston’s smash hit West African restaurant has big plans for celebrating the culture of the African diaspora and Nigerian Independence Day. ChòpnBlọk owner Ope Amosu will hold the Chopd & Stewd Festival on September 30.
Held at downtown's Post Houston mixed-use development — the same facility where ChòpnBlọk occupies a prime spot in the food hall — Chopd & Stewd is an all-day celebration of West African culture that includes four pillars: Eats, Speaks, Trade, and Beats. It builds on the success Amosu has had with the restaurant, which has been featured on shows such as Top Chef, Marcus Samuelsson’s PBS series No Passport Required, and Padma Lakshmi’s Hulu series Taste of the Nation.
As Amosu explains, expanding beyond the walls of his restaurant has always been part of the plan, and that includes a day-long celebration in Houston, which is home to America’s largest Nigerian and West Africa communities. He’s learned some lessons from attending other festivals that he’s applied to Chopd & Stewd.
“Truthfully, although we’ve had a lot of advancement, I feel like there’s more ground to cover when it comes to telling the story of the Black and African diaspora as well as having those people in the room representing the food and culture that’s important to me,” he tells CultureMap. “A lot of festivals I've been to that hasn’t necessarily been the case. It’s time we’re able to really bring together other storytellers and culinary creatives from this space and build our own platform where we can tell the story the way we want and invite everyone to hear directly from us.”
Food is at the heart of the festival’s programming. The Culinary Village, held throughout Saturday morning and afternoon in the Post’s rooftop garden, will feature nine different chef stations. Participants include local chefs such as Greg Gatlin (Gatlin’s BBQ, Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers), Keisha Griggs (Kuji Kitchen), Oxtail Mash-up winner Reginald Scott (The Smoke), and Joseph Boudreaux (Boo’s Burgers).
In the evening, Amosu has gathered some culinary heavy hitters for the Chop Nation brunch. He’ll be joined by Top Chef alums Eric Adjepong and Dawn Burrell as well as Tolu Eros, a Nigerian chef with restaurants in Los Angeles and Lagos.
“It’s like the Avengers coming together,” Amosu says about the lineup. “People I’ve admired or learned from or studied.”
The festival has other components as well. The day starts with Afro Vibes yoga, a wellness session featuring Thrive Juices, and an Afro Beats dance class. Throughout the day, the Òrêké Market will offer goods from by West Africa or produced by people with West African heritage. In the afternoon, masterclasses and lectures provide educational opportunities.
At night, the Sounds of the Motherland concert will take the festival right to October 1, Nigerian Independence Day. Amosu is still finalizing the concert lineup, but promises it will be a memorable evening.
“It’s all about celebrating the popular influences of the West African diaspora,” Amosu explains. “It’s all centered around enabling communities from all walks of life to retrace their West African ancestral connections.”
Tickets for the festival are on sale now. Prices start at $45 for a “Vibez” ticket that provides access to the morning wellness sessions and the evening concert. A “Tribe” ticket, $85, adds access to the Culinary Village, and a “Chief” ticket ($175) comes with VIP Culinary Village passes and the ability to attend two classes. All access “ChopNation” tickets ($395) include VIP seating for the brunch and a special viewing area for the concert.
The market will be free to attend for anyone who passes through the Post that day. Amosu notes the facility typically sees between 8-10,000 visitors on a Saturday. He’s hoping that as many 2-5,000 of them will engage with some aspect of Chopd & Stewd. Of course, he’s already thinking about year two.
“I’m an ambitious guy. I’m going through sleepless nights telling myself it’s year one you gotta work on the kinks,” Amosu says. “We’re doing our part to satiate the need. The vision is to build year after year.”