Black chefs chop it up at Family Reunion food festival in Middleburg

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Family Reunion in Middleburg (Part 1)

It’s time for local foodies to verbally “chop it up” as acclaimed chefs literally chop it up in the kitchen.

On Thursday, staffers sliced onions, shucked corn, cooked shrimp and even sang behind the scenes at the third annual Family Reunion, a four-day food festival at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia.

It’s the brainchild of renowned Chef Kwame Onwuachi, who founded the culinary event three years ago after running the successful restaurant Tatiana at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

“We have 40 of the best chefs in the world coming here, cooking and pouring their heart into the cuisine,” Onwuachi told WTOP. “We have different themes — we have Mardi Gras night where we have New Orleans-themed cuisines, then we have a cookout, which is quintessential cookout food seen through the lens of the best chefs in the world.”

This year’s festival benefits Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign. The overall mission of Family Reunion is to nurture, develop and celebrate racial and ethnic diversity for the next generation of hospitality professionals.

“It’s really dope to see it blossom into what it’s become,” Onwuachi said. “To celebrate Black contributions to the food industry, it’s not really done much on a grand scale. … I wanted a place where I could feel at home and remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, to refill my cup and see people that I don’t get to see that often in one spot.”

That includes BBQ pitmaster Rodney Scott of Charleston, South Carolina, outside the main tent smoking pork ribs.

“On the pit today, we’re making St. Louis-cut ribs,” Scott told WTOP. “This pork is all local, it’s provided for us here in Virginia. … It feels like home. It feels like a real family. This thing is unbelievable, it’s comfortable, it’s welcoming, you learn a lot from the other chefs, a lot of great conversations and great memories are created, man. I love it.”

In addition to the food, guests will enjoy enlightening panel discussions, topical cooking demonstrations and chef-led recreational activities like axe throwing and archery throughout the resort’s sprawling 340 acres.

At night, guests will enjoy music and comedy performances. The first year’s surprise guest was comedian Dave Chappelle. Last year’s surprise performer was the human beatbox Doug E. Fresh, who is currently in town for “Masters of the Mic: Hip-Hop 50” concert nearby at Wolf Trap. The surprise guest this year is, well, a surprise for guests of the Middleburg event to uncover.

If you can’t make the sold-out event, you can buy cookbooks by Scott and Onwuachi to taste their cooking at home.

“I currently have a cookbook called ‘Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day is a Good Day.’ It’s a book telling the story of part of my life, and the rest is recipes,” Scott said.

Onwuachi added his own plugs. “I have two books: ‘Notes from a Young Black Chef,’ it’s a memoir. Then, a cookbook called ‘My America,'” he said.

After the four-day festival wraps, you can follow up with the local participating chefs by visiting their actual restaurants across the area.

“You want to go check out J.R. Robinson … Peter Prime at Bammy’s in the Navy Yard [in Southeast D.C.],” Onwuachi said.

The Family Reunion festival runs Aug. 17-20. Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Family Reunion in Middleburg (Part 2)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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