(Photo by Flickr user Fio, used under a Creative Commons license)
After chef Kurt Evans closed down his restaurant Route 23 Café last year, he found a new calling injecting awareness of social inequities into the dining experience.
The idea began, Evans said, with #DayWithoutImmigrants last February. Shortly after, as Evans started to think about how to incorporate social justice into his work as a chef, he began to look to the formerly incarcerated people who have worked in his restaurant and members of his own family who have been in conflict with the criminal justice system.
So, this month, he started his End Mass Incarceration dinner series. The menus are inspired by prison commissary, Southern, Caribbean and African cuisines, the events are complemented with talks from people who have been impacted by mass incarceration, and the proceeds go toward Books Through Bars, a nonprofit that gets literature into the hands of prison inmates.
“I felt this is something that I can do for people who look like me,” Evans said. “This affects my community a lot. I wanted to do something for people who don’t have a voice.”
The first dinner, which was “small, but effective,” took place at Rx The Farmacy earlier this month. The next dinner in the series, at El Compadre on Feb. 18, is expected to draw a crowd. (El Compadre is owned by #Right2Work organizers and activists Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller.)
Entrance is pay-what-you-wish, and attendees are encouraged to bring books for Books Through Bars (but check here for the organization’s donation guidelines first).
“Every series has a topic around it,” Evans said. “Every menu won’t be the same.”
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Attendees at the dinner on Feb. 18 can expect chi chis and sriracha deviled eggs with crispy chicken skins, kale salad, butternut squash soup, fried catfish with okra salsa and more.-30-
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