Tavel Bristol-Joseph is executive pastry chef and partner at Emmer & Rye.

The Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce will host its inaugural Taste of Black Austin event at 6 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Peached Social House (6500 N. Lamar Blvd.).

The evening will feature hors d’oeuvres rooted in Texas from a diverse selection of black Austin chefs and business owners that includes Guyana native Tavel Bristol (Emmer & Rye), Sharon Mays (Baby Greens), Demmerick Johnson (Old Thousand), Iba Thaim (Cazamance) of Senegal and several others.

The night will also feature a VIP cooking demonstration by Jennifer Cumberbatch, associate pastor at Agape Christian Ministries and owner of Cumberbatch Confections, who will discuss the history of sweet potatoes in America and their African roots.

Sharon Mays is the owner of salad-centric drive-thru restaurant Baby Greens.

The tastings will precede a reception with speakers and a curated photo exhibition in conjunction with the Austin History Center that traces Austin’s food history and traditions dating back to 1870.

“Food for us has been so much of community,” Chamber president and CEO Tam Hawkins said. “Food has been healing for our community, especially when we were transported as cargo and brought over to this country, we used food as a medium to heal our souls and our aching hearts.”

In addition to food’s cultural import, the night will focus on economic development and challenges to the black community in Austin over the past 150 years. The Black Chamber notes that in 1865 there were 19 black-owned restaurants in Austin, and today that number is not significantly higher.

“What’s at stake is a generation of young people not knowing some of that history and not being able to look at their parents as business owners, as well,” Hawkins said. “So it’s more than just food that’s being lost; it’s really preserving a culture and a legacy financially.”

Greater Austin Black Chamber communications manager Hakeem Adewumi, who created Taste of Black Austin, says he intends the inaugural event to serve as the kickoff to a series of conversations created to support black food professionals around Central Texas and educate area youth.

“We want to make certain that youth understand their opportunities here,” Adewumi said. (austinbcc.org)