A Juneteenth Ancestral Celebration

The Juneteenth celebration showcases the city’s top culinary talents and pays delicious homage to history

A collage of seven people's portraits

Photo: courtesy of Dakar NOLA

As anyone who has recently made a culinary pilgrimage to New Orleans will tell you, Serigne Mbaye, the Senegalese chef from Harlem, has captured hearts and minds in the food-loving city. The menu at his Magazine Street restaurant, Dakar NOLA, is touted as much for its flavors as its message, which shines a light on the crucial role enslaved people played in crafting New Orleans cuisine.

photo: courtesy of Dakar NOLA
Chef Serigne Mbaye.

Consider Mbaye’s first-course “Last Meal,” a rich stew of blue crab, crisp rice, and black-eyed peas inspired by ndambe, a Senegalese dish of lamb, peas, and sweet potatoes. As G&G contributor Brett Anderson explained in the New York Times, the dish was used to bulk up enslaved West Africans just before they boarded ships bound for America. In the majority-Black city, once the site of the largest slave market in the United States and a place that continues to grapple with racial inequality, such nods to the past feel vital.

Mbaye’s history lessons aren’t limited to his restaurant. On Sunday, June 16, he’s organizing Afro Freedom Afro Feast, a one-day celebration of Black ancestral foods held at New Orleans’ Grow Dat Youth Farm. Inspired by Mbaye’s love of farming practices and outdoor ancestral cooking, the celebration is designed to widen the spotlight to more of the city’s Black culinary talents. And what better time for such a showcase than the weekend before Juneteenth? “Juneteenth is about honoring our ancestors, so at this event, we do that with food, cooking the way they did on an open fire and serving historically Black dishes,” Mbaye says.

photo: courtesy of Dakar NOLA
Dakar NOLA’s gulf shrimp.

Six chefs will join Mbaye to prepare an international tasting experience: chef Charly Pierre, this year’s Top Chef contestant and owner of the Haitian street food restaurant Fritai; chef Prince Lobo from the Ethiopian restaurant Addis NOLA; award-winning Saint Lucian chef Nina Compton from Compère Lapin and BABs; chef Martha Wiggins from Café Reconcile; chef Shonda Cross from Chef Shonda’s Fine Dining To-Go; and pastry chef Kaitlin Guerin from Lagniappe Bakehouse.

“You’re going to experience all the hospitality New Orleans has to offer, from Caribbean influence to West African influence to Haitian influence to East Africa,” Mbaye says. “You’re going to get a bite of the world.”

photo: courtesy of Dakar NOLA
Ataya tea ice cream from Dakar NOLA.

Guests will partake in this international feast in a place that’s become a sign of hope for the city. Founded in 2011, the Grow Dat community garden was created to provide opportunities and leadership skills for New Orleans youth. Every year, seventy students ages fifteen through twenty-four work the seven-acre site in City Park while learning about agriculture, sustainable food, and social justice.

“As a youth-serving organization committed to equity, solidarity, and love of land, we take pride in the land we steward being used as a space for folks across the African diaspora to commune, to celebrate, and to honor our ancestors on Juneteenth,” says Julia Gables, the farm’s director.


Mbaye feels the same and looks forward to working with the Grow Dat students along with young adults in the workforce development programs at Café Reconcile and Turning Tables, a training program for young bartenders of color. Students at the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI) will also have the opportunity to assist the chefs at Afro Freedom Afro Feast in what is sure to be a unique learning experience.

Such partnerships with youth and educational organizations are an intentional part of the fabric of the event. “I want this to inspire the next generation,” Mbaye says. “Whether it’s farmers or chefs, whether they want to become writers or activists—who knows what that inspiration might do for that young person.”

Purchase tickets to Afro Freedom Afro Feast at