By Lil Nickelson
This dinner was held in the Ginny’s Supper Club area of Red Rooster Harlem prior to 2020. Harlem EatUp! co-founders Marcus Samuelsson and Herb Karlitz moved the dinner to a larger space this year with the generous support of presenting sponsors Citi and Mastercard. Supporting sponsors included Foster Grant as well as wine and spirits sponsors Aslina Wines, B. Stuyvesant Champagne, and Ten To One Rum.
The cocktail hour began at 6 pm with delicious canapes prepared by the ballroom’s chef Daniel Philogene, and they were brought out in abundance to match the beverages supplied by the six beverage sponsors. Marcus and Herb were available and took photos with everyone from honorees to sponsors along with ordinary guests on the step and repeat signage to commemorate the occasion for all in attendance.
The Harlem EatUp! Luminary Awards Dinner was created to spotlight local visionaries and leaders and has been a signature Harlem EatUp! event since the festival’s launch in 2015. Past honorees include The Honorable David Dinkins, Dapper Dan, Thelma Golden, Jonelle Procope, Bevy Smith, Lana Turner, and Madame C.J. Walker (posthumously.)
This year past honoree Bevy Smith hosted the dinner on her birthday. This year’s honorees were two-time Emmy Award-winning TV host, executive producer, author, and current Harlem resident Tamron Hall and the legendary Harlem-born artist, DJ, and photographer D-Nice, of “Club Quarantine” fame. In March 2020, D-Nice began hosting Club Quarantine on Instagram Live from his home to help others cope with the COVID-19 global health crisis. That Saturday night dance party ran 9 hours and D-Nice urged people to “take care of one another and wash their hands.” His live-streamed DJ sets remain a popular online destination for thousands weekly, and he has more than 2.6 million followers on Instagram. Artist Leon Johnson was commissioned again to create the personalized awards for the honorees.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Director of Culinary Chef Ed Brumfield of Marcus Samuelsson Group created a festive meal celebrating African and African American cuisines featuring Harlem culinary favorites. The five-course menu these two chefs created was as spectacular as all of them come to associate with them. The first course was blue cornbread served with fermented tomato and maple butter. The second course was Old Bay crab cake, corn puree with a Haitian pickled relish (pikliz) and crispy potato (or vegetarian option of plant crab cake) served with Sauvignon Blanc wine from Aslina Wines. The third course was chef Marcus’ surprise chicken and rice dish served out of gigantic paella pans in the middle of the dining room with fireworks sparklers all aglow and served to guests by the wait staff with Chenin Blanc wine from Aslina Wines. The fourth course was jerk short rib, collard greens, and sweet plantains in a curry broth served (or vegetarian option of jerk cauliflower) with Cabernet Sauvignon from Aslina Wines. The fifth course was a delicious sweet potato pudding with whipped cream cheese, ginger snap, and caramelized banana served Reserve Champagne from B. Stuyvesant Champagne.
Lil Nickelson is a Senior Consultant with an MBA degree focused on Finance and Financial Management Services from New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business. Skilled in sales, management, business development, marketing strategy, and social media, with a history of working in the food and beverages industry. Her column “Dining with Miss Lil” has been featured in Harlem newspapers and with Harlem World Magazine for numerous years.
Photo Credits: 1) Harlem EatUp! Festival co-founders Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Herb Karlitz with Chef JJ Johnson. 2) Honoree Tamron Hall. 3) Honoree DJ D-Nice. 4) Past honoree Lana Turner. 5) Lil and artist Leon Johnson. By Rudy Collins.
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