The Ultimate Family Reunion

The Family Reunion at Salamander Resort & Spa on August 19-22, 2021

The people + The atmosphere + The Food = A remarkable experience at The Family Reunion.

To be in the presence of excellent chefs, panelists, foodies, writers, bloggers, musicians, photographers, and business owners is so soothing to the soul.  To see everyone feel and act as if they are around family gives me such a feeling of belonging.  Chatting and absorbing the wisdom of our elders….laughing with cousins…..basking in the pride of being among our people.  Witnessing so many chefs perform at the top of their game is so amazing.  It is wonderful to see excellence at every turn.

I can only imagine how it would feel to be a chef or panelist at that moment.  To be trusted to deliver your signature dish to dinner tables full of your mentors, teachers, peers, and fans has to be one of the most fulfilling feelings.  Additionally, to have the same group of people praise your food with phrases like, “This is the best I have ever had” and “incredibly delicious” must be a career defining moment.  Not much tops that feeling.  If you wonder why so many chefs say this was such a proud moment in their culinary career, this is why. 

For a panelist, to be chosen to interview our most beloved and influential chefs, authors, television show hosts and empire builders must be a surreal experience.  Imagine being asked to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Mrs. Virginia Ali.  Imagine moderating a panel discussion on how West Africa inspired a globe, or representation matters, or passing the torch?  They are all awe-inspiring moments.

To be invited as a member of the press is the most amazing feeling of all.  To be invited to cover the event, to tell the story, to preserve the memories, to evoke the feelings of community and togetherness, to encapsulate this wonderful experience and to put into words what so many others have said they cannot.  To say this is the best food and wine festival I have attended is an understatement. The Family Reunion is a trailblazing event that raised the bar, reconceptualized and redefined the concept of a food and wine festival.

The Family Reunion, presented by Chef Kwame Onwuachi and co-hosted by Sheila C. Johnson, was held August 19-22, 2021 at the immaculate Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia. The event schedule included a Welcome Reception Cook Out, Lexus Driving Experience, Family Style Lunches, and an African Night Market to name a few.  The breakout sessions caused attendees to make impossible choices between attending “Jerk: The Dish That Freed A Nation” with Chef Andre Fowles, “BBQ 101” with Pitmasters Rodney Scott and Bryan Furman, “Axes and Archery” with Chef Mashama Bailey, or an “Equestrian Trot” with Chef Kwame Onwuachi.  Those are just some of the breakout sessions.  There were so many more worthwhile breakout sessions.

Let me take you on a journey…

To drink Black Girl Magic Wine with the McBride sisters…  

To have Chef Tiffany Derry personally describe her fried chicken while she is fixing your plate… 

To trying to protect said fried chicken from Jidenna, who wants to take the whole plate…

To walk into the Sundlun library and see “Classic Man” Jidenna sitting with a cocktail in his hand and with his legs crossed in a leather armchair in front of an immaculate mahogany wood bookshelf evoking a scene worthy of one of his music videos.   To then chat with him for close to an hour about everything but music…  

To attend a book signing and have a conversation with Chef Carla Hall after just dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy” with her a few hours earlier….

To have a book signed by Dr. Jessica B. Harris and thanking her for being one of the first 100 Instagram followers of @ShopCastIronSkillet (the online grocery marketplace company my cousin and I founded)…

To personally congratulate Mrs. Virginia Ali on winning the Lifetime Achievement Award… To ask for a picture OF her with her award, just for her to ask me to be in the picture and hold the AWARD!!!

To watch Top Chef host Chef Padma Lakshmi prepare and serve her signature peppers dish to the crowd…

To have sidecars and conversation with Chef “JR” Robinson… 

To have wine and laughs with Nadine Brown just before Estelle performs on stage…

To discuss a brunch collaboration with Melyssa Ford…

To create content alongside fellow bloggers @dinediapsora @blackgirlswhobrunch @feedthemalik @thequeenofyum … 

To have the surreal experience of being one of the first people to taste Chef Andre Fowles’ new hot sauce on the Jerk Chicken Tacos hot off of the grill, where the red hot charcoal and charred wood still smokes…

To then see Chef Fowles request and post my video to his Instagram page as the official announcement of his new Hot Sauce line…

To chat under the stars with Chef Kwame Onwuachi, his business partner, and his friends about life, fun, and joy…. 

To casually chat with Salamander CEO Sheila C. Johnson and her best friend in the hallway…

To instantly feel a sense of community with everyone I encounter…

It all seems like a scene from a movie, but it is my actual experience on Day 3 of The Family Reunion.  In a nutshell, it was a space beyond time where we ate, talked, laughed, danced, reminisced, learned, and connected as a soul family at the Inaugural “The Family Reunion”.

Watch my video recap here.

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