BIZBASH: How Can Food Festivals Become More Equitable and Inclusive?

BIZBASH: How Can Food Festivals Become More Equitable and Inclusive?
(Left to Right) Jamilka Borges of Wild Child in Pittsburgh, Melissa Miranda of MUSANG in Seattle, Paolo Dungca of Pogiboy in DC, Boby Pradachith of Thip Khao in DC, Ferrell Alvarez of Rooster and the Till in Tampa, Armani Johnson of ABC Pony in DC, and Cable Smith of the Royal in DC at a past Indie Chefs Week in Washington, DC in February 2020. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam Photography.

Who doesn’t love a food festival? They’re a great way to learn about new restaurants and sample a variety of cuisine. But there’s a darker side to the events, which, when mismanaged, can be financially exploitative to restaurants and responsible for mass food waste.

Indie Chefs Community (ICC)—a group that aims to improve the lives of people in the hospitality industry—is hoping to change that with COMMUNE, a new food festival coming to Houston from Aug. 21 to Sept. 5. The event’s goals? To be equitable, to give back to the community, to champion social justice and to address systemic issues facing the hospitality industry. (Oh, and to serve delicious food.)

Sounds like a lofty agenda—but Grover Smith, the founder of Indie Chefs Community, is ready for it. The community has already hosted more than 40 activations, bringing together more than 700 chefs across 13 cities around the country. For COMMUNE, the group’s largest event yet, the team will host more than 200 chefs over two weeks. The event, which organizers call an “experiential dining compound,” will also include pop-ups, collaborative dinners, classes, roundtable discussions, a street market and more.

Food from the Washington, DC Indie Chefs Week in February 2020. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam Photography.

Speaking from his own experience, Smith says, “There has been a trend toward for-profit festivals asking more and more from the participants while providing less in value or support. You see some of the marquee festivals asking chefs to come at their own expense, provide the product and labor used to make the food at their expense, and on top of it, they don’t set them up for success—they’re in a tent serving hundreds or even thousands of portions of lukewarm or cold food in paper boats to an oversold event that basically turns into a cattle call.” READ MORE AT BIZBASH.COM