By Lil Nickelson
New York City Wine and Food Festival (NYCWFF) 2016 saved the best for last on Saturday night of October 15th, 2016; namely the sold-out Midnight Jazz Breakfast that was held at The Cecil and Minton’s restaurants in Harlem from 11:30 pm until 1:30 am. This was the second year that The Cecil has hosted the Midnight Jazz Breakfast for NYCWFF and it just gets better with time. It was advertised that the hosts were Carla Hall of The Chew on ABC and chef/owner of Brooklyn’s Southern Kitchen and the incomparable R & B diva Patti LaBelle. Carla was there from start to finish and she was warm and friendly to everyone that approached her; her new restaurant Southern Kitchen’s cuisine is an ode to her Nashville roots. Ms. Patti arrived later than expected, but she still was the belle of the party once she did arrive.
Executive Chef JJ Johnson was the real host of the night; after all we were in his house. Chef JJ is unfolding into consummate, first class polished host for events in his restaurants. Chef JJ was talking with the guests and with the press plus he was mingling with the other chefs from the food establishments represented this year. There were two returning Harlem restaurants from last year: BLVD Bistro whose table was manned by Executive Chef Carlos Swepson and his lovely wife Markisha and the dynamic team from LoLo’s Seafood Shack, owners Executive Chef Raymond Zamanta Mohan and his business partner/wife Skai Young Mahon and restaurant manager Jose.
The two new comers this year were restaurants lead by chefs that are fellow CIA graduates like Executive Chef JJ; Chef Christopher Faulkner of Solomon & Kuff and Chef Kelvin Fernandez of Strand Bistro. Chef Christopher is NY born his cooking has been influenced by his travels. He’s no stranger to Harlem eateries either since he created the menu for Monroe’s, the first restaurant in Riverbank State Park and worked for a time at Melba’s. Chef Kelvin is NY born of Dominican parents and he’s worked at Gotham Bar & Grill and at LaMarina for two years where he blended his French training with his Latin American style.
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The restaurants were filled with music as well; a fabulous DJ was playing the hits in The Cecil and a live jazz band, Dandy Wellington and His Band was performing in Minton’s.
The endless tastings offered up by the six restaurants were so beautiful to look at as well as delicious tasting; you could taste the love in every bite. I had hung out the night before celebrating my goddaughter’s birthday until 4am and was at a church anniversary luncheon by 12 Noon that Saturday afternoon. I tried to hang in to wait for Ms. Patti’s entrance, but I’m not as young as I used to be and I left before she arrived. By 12:30 am I was beat so my fellow Harlem World contributor CC Minton and I left. I was upset with myself, but I’m only human
Next year Ms. Patti; a girl can dream.
Photo credit: 1) Chefs JJ Johnson & Kelvin. 2) CC Minton and Carla Hall 3) Lil Nickelson and Carla 4) Chef Carlos & wife of BLVD Bistro 5) DJ and live jazz band, LoLo’s Mgr Jose & Owner Skai, and Chef Christopher from Solomon & Kuff’s. 6) Tastings at The Cecil and Strand Bistro.