With a goal of spotlighting perspectives on resilience, serving the community, and strengthening inclusion, the New York City Hospitality Alliance was thrilled to team with the Tao Group and MSG’s Garden of Dreams last month on a very special event.
The 60-minute in-person event brought together a diverse group of 100 guests including hospitality professionals and youth from their charity partners such as the Children’s Aid and the Covenant House. A celebrity panel led the celebration of the complexities and journey of participants careers by learning about their background, education, and thoughts on the hospitality & service industry as it relates to diversity & inclusion. Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Chef JJ Johnson, Chef Melba Wilson and Derrick “D-Nice” Jones Anchored the panel that was moderated by Rev. Dr. Shakeema North.
Samuelsson is the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide including Red Rooster Harlem, MARCUS Montreal, Marcus B&P, Red Rooster Overtown and Marcus Fish + Chop House in the Bahamas. Samuelsson was the youngest person to receive a three-star review from The New York Times and was the guest chef for the Obama Administration’s first state dinner. He has won multiple James Beard Foundation awards for his work as a chef and host of No Passport Required, his public television series with Vox/Eater. Samuelsson was crowned champion of Top Chef Masters and Chopped All-Stars and is the head judge of the new show Top Chef Family Style.
A committed philanthropist, Samuelsson is co-chair of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), which focuses on helping underserved youth. Samuelsson co-produces the annual Harlem EatUp! Festival, which celebrates the food, art, and culture of Harlem. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Samuelsson converted his restaurants Red Rooster Harlem, Marcus B&P in Newark, and Red Rooster Overtown in Miami into community kitchens in partnership with World Central Kitchen, serving over 230,000 meals to those in need.
JJ Johnson is a James Beard Award-winning chef, TV Personality and Author best known for his barrier-breaking cuisine informed by the Caribbean flavors of his upbringing. Chef JJ’s signature cooking style combines culturally relevant ingredients and classical technique with a global point of view. At FIELDTRIP, his made-to-order rice bowl shop that debuted in 2019, Chef JJ highlights rice as a hero ingredient and showcases it in recipes sourced from around the world. FIELDTRIP’s first outpost opened in Harlem and has since grown to two additional locations including Rockefeller Center and Long Island City.
As one of the only fast casual restaurants on Esquire’s “America’s Best New Restaurants” list in 2020, FIELDTRIP utilizes sustainable ingredients and ethically sourced vegetables and proteins, creating a flavorful and diverse dining experience. The brand’s motto, “Rice is Culture,” was born out of Chef JJ’s belief that rice is the universal ingredient that connects us all and can be found at the center of the table in almost every community. Among many other partnerships, Chef JJ is a Mastercard Ambassador and a television host on Just Eats with Chef JJ airing on TV One’s network Cleo TV.
Melba Wilson is the president of the New York City Hospitality Alliance and owner of a growing culinary empire based in New York’s famed Harlem neighborhood. Her renowned restaurant, Melba’s, is a hot spot for celebrities, locals and tourists from around the world who crave unbeatable American comfort food. She began her career at Sylvia’s Restaurant, where she launched the popular Sunday Gospel Brunch, and has received numerous accolades and awards for her entrepreneurship and her original and family recipes. She won on an episode of the Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay, was featured on The View, and appears regularly on television, most recently on CNBC’s reality show, Consumed.
Over the course of an unbelievable journey from the streets of Harlem to touring and recording with Boogie Down Productions to The White House, Derrick “D-Nice” Jones went from being a pillar of the culture’s history to actually making history himself. The legendary DJ, rapper, beatboxer, producer, photographer, and philanthropist has moved millions on wax with timeless records, on stage at unforgettable gigs, and online with his revolutionary “Club Quarantine” Instagram Live series.
His influence would be recognized industrywide. The NAACP Image Awards named him Entertainer Of The Year, the BET Awards made him an honorary recipient of the “Shine A Light” Award, while he took home the 2020 Webby Artist of the Year award in the category of “Special Achievement.” Most importantly, “Club Quarantine” positively impacted the globe, raising million for First Responders, HBCU’s, CDC, Apollo Theater, and more. Teaming up with Issa Rae’s Raedio, he even co-curated the Official Playlist of the Biden + Harris inauguration.
A native of Newark, New Jersey, Reverend Doctor Shakeema North has committed her life’s work to empowering young people to reach their fullest potential, despite the challenges that many of them face. Pastor Shak, as she is affectionately called, has an exceptional ability to develop holistic and inclusive youth development initiatives. She is skilled at designing strategic programs, preparing thought-provoking workshops and seminars, facilitating community-based campaigns, and improving overall organizational productivity.