Soul Food Sessions, a nonprofit started in 2017 to break stereotypes and enhance opportunities for African American chefs, today unveils plans for The Table is Set: A Four-City Tour Served With A Coke that will begin in Charlotte and hit the road to three new East Coast cities this year. The organization is also dropping the first episode of a podcast series that will be hosted by New York Times Best Selling Author and Television Personality Gina Neely.
Soul Food Sessions offers dining experiences that feature African American chefs’ diverse culinary talents and foster open conversation about challenges in achieving equal opportunity in the food industry. Only 16 percent of chefs in America are African American according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moreover, African Americans account for nearly 14 percent of hourly restaurant employees, but only 9.5 percent of managers.
“Our ultimate goal is to ignite a movement that multiplies these numbers,” said Chef Michael Bowling, one of the five founders of Soul Food Sessions. “The table will be set for a great meal and conversation at each event. Diversity issues can be difficult to talk about, but food has the power to bring us all together, and important conversations happen around the table. We’re convinced that now is the time to make a change for black chefs in America.”
Coca-Cola Consolidated, the local bottler of Coke products in the four tour cities and the largest independent bottler in the country, is partnering with the organization and its founders to bring the tour to life and elevate Soul Food Sessions’ mission.
“Our company is passionate about closely partnering with the communities we serve,” said Dan Holmes, senior vice president of marketing at Coca-Cola Consolidated. “Sponsoring Soul Food Sessions helps us do that, not only by pairing our Coke products with delicious food, but by also sharing our commitment to education and opportunity.”
The tour will begin on June 19 in Charlotte and then travel to Washington, D.C., on July 26, Baltimore, Maryland, on July 29 and Charleston, South Carolina, in late October. Soul Food Sessions will partner with an African American chef in each market to develop the menu, host the event and lead the conversation.
“We want each event to be impactful based on the individual city’s food scene and situation,” said Greg Collier, another co-founder. “The best way to do that is to bring in a local expert while also keeping each event authentic to Soul Food Sessions as an organization.”
In addition to the partnership with local chefs, Soul Food Sessions will grant a minimum of $10,000 in scholarships to culinary students across all four markets. Tickets for the first event in Charlotte are on sale now, and details for the other cities will be announced as they are available.
Today, the organization also launched the first episode of “Stories from the Soul,” a podcast hosted by Gina Neely, The New York Times best-selling author, television personality and public speaker.
“Just like Soul Food Sessions events, Stories from the Soul discusses the challenges at the heart of the organization’s mission while also sharing some delicious recipes,” Neely said. “I am honored to help tell these chefs’ great stories as the host for the series.”
The podcast will be available on iTunes and SoundCloud. New episodes will be released in advance of each event on the tour.
“Our events are purposefully intimate with only 100 tickets available,” Bowling said. “We created the podcast as a way for more people to hear the stories of black chefs and the challenges in each city. People who are supportive of our cause can also sign the Table is Set Pledge online to demonstrate their commitment.”
For more information, visit www.thetableisset.com.
About Soul Food Sessions
Soul Food Sessions is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and enhancing opportunities for African American chefs, as well as other positions in the restaurant and hospitality industries and beverage services. Founded in 2017 by Chef Jamie Barnes, Chef Michael Bowling, Chef Greg Collier, Subrina Collier, and Chef Jamie Suddoth in Charlotte, North Carolina, the organization hosts pop-up dining experiences that showcase the diverse culinary talents of African American chefs and bring people together to talk about how to create more equal opportunity in the food industry. To date, the team has hosted less than 10 events but donated over $10,000 to other charities. They are also focused on scholarship and mentorship opportunities for African Americans interested in the industries they serve. Through partnerships with culinary schools, they provide mentorship programs to students by allowing them to participate in their events, following up with them about their experiences and providing scholarships to help fund their education.
About Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated
Coke Consolidated is the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the United States. Our Purpose is to honor God, serve others, pursue excellence and grow profitably. For more than 115 years, we have been deeply committed to the consumers, customers, and communities we serve and passionate about the broad portfolio of beverages and services we offer. We make, sell, and deliver beverages of The Coca-Cola Company and other partner companies in more than 300 brands and flavors to 65 million consumers in territories spanning 14 states and the District of Columbia.
SOURCE Soul Food Sessions