The Rapidian

February "Culinary Conversations" panel discussion to focus on importance of minority culture in food industry

On February 19, the Downtown Market will host the first Culinary Conversations panel of 2020, focusing on the role of minority culture and diversity in West Michigan’s food industry.
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WHEN:            February 19, 5-7:30 p.m.
 
WHERE:         Grand Rapids Downtown Market, 2nd floor
 

On February 19, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market will host the first Culinary Conversations panel discussion of the year, focusing on the role of diversity in West Michigan’s food industry. Culinary Conversations is a peer-to-peer collaboration and networking group for West Michigan’s food industry professionals, including growers, producers, chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and others, intended to strengthen Grand Rapids’ regional food system.

 

Panelists for the Feb. 19 event will include Vincent Mcintosh, co-owner of Irie Kitchen, Dodlie Benoit, operations manager at Chez Olga, Darel Ross, co-owner of 40 Acres, and Rob Yoon, owner of Emonae Korean BBQ. Kyama Kitavi, economic development manager at Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., will moderate.

 

“In any industry, it’s important for leaders to be intentional about hearing different perspectives and learning from different experiences,” said Kitavi. “That cultural intelligence will help improve employee engagement, customer service, community relations and overall business results, as well as help remove barriers and improve our community.” 

 

According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry boasts more minority managers than any other industry. Four in 10 restaurant managers and supervisors are minorities, as are six in 10 chefs. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of Hispanic-owned restaurant businesses increased 51 percent, African American-owned restaurant businesses increased 49 percent, and the number of Asian-owned restaurant businesses increased 18 percent. 

 

“Food is the universal tool that brings people together, not only to share nourishment, but to learn about culture and heritage,” said Mimi Fritz, president and CEO of the Downtown Market. “As the food industry and food culture in West Michigan become more diverse, it’s important that we encourage and embrace that diversity.”

Led by the Downtown Market, Culinary Conversations is a unique partnership between Start Garden, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) and Michigan State University Extension. Each MeetUp includes both networking and educational opportunities. Sponsors include Experience Grand Rapids, SpartanNash and Pioneer Construction. 

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