Eden Hagos, founder of BLACK FOODIE, discusses how her focus on changing the global conversation surrounding Black food culture came to be, how Canadians can support Black-owned food businesses during the pandemic, and what the future of food means to her.
What drove you to pursue a career in food?
I grew up in a family of food entrepreneurs. They had a passion for hospitality and had owned several food businesses in East Africa. As a child, I watched my family open an East African restaurant in my hometown of Windsor, Ontario and my grandmother start an injera business. Although I loved the taste of the food, I hated feeling different as a child and I distanced myself from the food culture. I didn’t want to smell like strong spices or eat with my hands. I didn’t realize until much later that this feeling had stuck with me as an adult. That changed when I went out to eat at a European restaurant for my birthday and experienced racist service.
This experience led me to ask myself questions like, why I hadn’t ever considered celebrating special occasions at an African or Caribbean restaurant? Why didn’t I cook my cultural foods? I knew then that I wanted to change the way I looked at food – not just my own cultural food, but Black food culture in general. I wanted to create a space for this type of dialogue and invite others to join me on this journey to explore and celebrate Black food culture. This is how BLACK FOODIE started and my career in food began.
How has the pandemic changed the way you cook?
The pandemic has definitely changed the way I cook. In the early months, I found myself baking so much more and going on missions to buy yeast online or perfect my gluten free recipes. But I transitioned from an intense baking phase into a deep dive into cookbooks. I began featuring a lot more Black cookbooks on BLACK FOODIE. I finally had the time to actually test out several recipes and learn new cultural dishes as I cooked my way through each book. What I really appreciated about this time was that I felt empowered to go the extra mile and experiment so much more.
Tell us about BLACK FOODIE and your focus on changing the global conversation around Black food culture.
BLACK FOODIE is a versatile digital media platform and agency that celebrates and explores Black food culture. We have a community of 250,000+ foodies and reach over a million gourmands, home cooks, food bloggers, and entrepreneurs each year. We love storytelling and using food as a channel to explore themes like identity, culture, history, and more. Our interactive content leaves our community feeling seen, represented, and empowered to explore our recommendations.
We change the global conversation around Black food culture by centering Black voices. At BLACK FOODIE we create content, events, and campaigns that bring joy to our community, and help us preserve Black food traditions, and we are not afraid to address the many ways racism plays out in the food world. We’re committed to creating opportunities and making space for our community. We also change the global conversation by hosting events like BLACK FOODIE week to explore themes like Black veganism, building a food business as Black entrepreneur, food as resistance, and more.
How can Canadians support local Black-owned food businesses?
There are so many delicious and easy ways to support local Black-owned food businesses. The first step I recommend is to have an open mind and be ready to try something new. There are so many new flavours, dishes, and ingredients to try. Think of our cuisines as everyday food, not just an adventure. Follow Black food creatives and media platforms, like ours blackfoodie.co, where you can learn more about different cuisines, watch how-to videos, and find Black-owned restaurants in your area.
I encourage folks to also think outside the takeout box. Of course, now more than ever, we need to support our local Black-owned restaurants, but there are plenty of other tasty and easy ways to support Black-owned food businesses. Try buying Black-owned food products, shopping at your local Black grocery store, and hiring Black caterers. There are lots of Black owned food products and services to choose from like grains, Caribbean ice creams, vegan cheeses, spices, online grocery stores, and more.
Why have food delivery services been critical in supporting local restaurants during the pandemic?
COVID-19 turned the restaurant industry upside down and I found many small businesses in my community start engaging in delivery services and using digital platforms to promote their services that had never done so before. It gave foodies like myself an easier way to support these local restaurants and enjoy our favourites from home. Another great way food delivery services have helped has been through giving independent chefs and caterers who no longer had event clients, the chance to set up ghost kitchens and try out new menus and concepts.
What does ‘the future of food’ mean to you?
‘The future of food’ means so many things to me. It means creativity, sustainability, and it’s deeply rooted in culture. I’m really excited about the ways in which Black chefs are using food to teach us about our history and roots. I love that I’m seeing new food businesses that are committed to bettering the community, like the many new startups focused on bringing African superfoods to the world and creating sustainable food systems on the continent. I think the future of food is really bright and is making space for the diversity that exists in our world. I’m really looking forward to covering these exciting developments on BLACK FOODIE.