Black Restaurant Week Founder Hosts Culinary Conference in Houston

The Houston-based Feed the Soul Foundation, a nonprofit organization by the founder of Black Restaurant WeekWarren Luckett, and managing partners Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson is hosting its first-ever Global Culinary Conference. The event will be held from Monday, January 22 through Tuesday, 23, from 8 a.m. through 5:30 p.m., at the Texas Tower, located at 845 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston. The event sponsors include Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Diageo, and Stella Artois. Two-day general admission passes cost $99, and one-day passes are $65. Tickets may be purchased via Eventbrite or on the event’s official website. Limited seating is available, so the organizers recommend buying their tickets quickly.

The Global Culinary Conference will focus on offering business development advice and networking opportunities for Black-, Indigenous- and Latin American-owned restaurants. In a time of economic uncertainty in the culinary world, the event founders hope to provide resources, insights and inspiration for continued success. 

sope at Tatemo in Houston
Tatemo’s sope, served during weekend brunch and made with pink Xocoyul rosado corn. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Houstonian and owner of Breakfast Klub, Kulture, and Reggae Hut Marcus Davis will deliver the keynote address on how he grew his popular hospitality group. Other speakers include Tatemó owner and winner of Food and Wine’s 2023 Best New Chef award Chef Emmanuel Chavez, Tacotomia owner and 2022’s Best Chef of Miami winner Chef Karla Hoyos, and Levy Restaurants’ Vice President of Culinary Chef Dayanny Delacruz.

A full schedule and list of speakers and special guests can be found online.

“According to James Beard Foundation’s 2023 Industry Report, 53% of culinary business owners experienced lowered profits this year, and challenges around rising food and labor costs have severely impacted profit margins, menu and content pricing since 2022,” said a press release announcing the event. “Attendees can expect in-depth keynotes focused on growing their culinary business technical skills and learning key functions of small businesses apps, understanding supply chain management, supervising personnel, and developing profitable business operations to designing bottom-line boosting marketing strategies and the future of food service businesses.”

Programming includes complimentary breakfast and lunch, happy hours for networking, and panels and breakout sessions on business growth and development covering topics such as contract proposals, finding capital, branding, social media marketing, content marketing, and media training. Master classes will also be offered on human resources, hiring and staffing, creating financial statements with Quickbooks, menu development and commercial leases. 

Culinary business owners can also attend a session on how to apply for Feed the Soul Foundation’s $25,000 grant program. Previous recipients will speak on how they’ve benefited from these gifts, which are intended to assist in financial and business development for Black-, Indigenous-, and/or Latin American-owned restaurants.

Feed the Soul Foundation is a national nonprofit that has addressed inequities in capital access, food justice, and opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and/or Latin American culinary business owners since 2020. According to a recent press release, they’ve provided $1,078,000 worth of business and financial development to 59 individuals, sent out $46,000 in emergency funds to restaurants recovering from damages and disasters, awarded $76,000 in scholarships to high school and HBCU students, and gave $59,000 worth of stipends to interns and students learning how to market and develop culinary businesses. They hope to help a minimum of 50 BIPOC-led culinary businesses annually. 

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