Last year, The Black Forks attended the NYC African Food Festival and there was nothing festive about it. Let’s just say the event did not fulfill its promises and left guests melting in the heat. I was hoping for something different this year, as it was my first time attending any kind of African food festival and I was beyond excited to expand my admiration for African cuisine. Although last year’s festival was a disaster, I thought this year’s African Restaurant Week festival would be better since there were more sponsors and was being hosted by a different company. Sadly, this year was also missed the mark in a few ways, but this was an improvement compared to what I read from last year.
When I think of festivals, I think of people dancing, eating and having a great time. The energy of the NYC African Food Festival was down, and it seemed like no one wanted to really get down to boogie. I felt like the vibe was being forced-the best way to discourage dancing is by asking people to dance over and over again.
If I had bought the VIP tickets, I would have been so disappointed because it didn’t seem like there were 25 restaurant vendors! I had purchased 6 tickets and 1 beer tasting package and it was confusing on how the tickets were supposed to be used. Communication is key y’all and it was clearly missed because even the vendors did not know what to do with the tickets at first and some were not accepting them either! Also, this festival was supposed to represent many African nations and it was hard to tell where the food was from. It would have been great to see flags around to know which cuisines were from what country. The only way I knew it was an African festival was from the music and food, but the flags would’ve given it an extra touch.
Brooklyn is a great location to have big events like the African Restaurant Week Festival but the Industry City location was a little too big in my opinion. There was so much space that it made it seem like the venue was not packed. While Industry City has a nice aesthetic, it lacked a vibe – I can’t quite put my finger on it, but we were there for almost four hours and quickly got bored after using our tickets up. Maybe having the festival in Harlem would help – it’s easy to get to and there is a large enough African population and a lot of African business that could benefit from the event.
(Hey fam, Vonnie here-As an African who has been to many a festival/party, I also didn’t get that sense of “Africanness” from the festival. While the technical aspects of running a festival were there for the most part, the essence and flavor of the festival were not. Every festival has a personality, so to speak – but I didn’t see any here.)
Overall, the food was the highlight of the African Restaurant Week Festival. The Senegalese and Nigerian food I tried really made my experience. I hope that next year the event planners follow through with the amount of vendors, better communication and really making sure to bring Africa to the masses.