Hint: Think traditional Chinese takeout dishes fused with Black American culture.
“Food makes me happy, and I love seeing people happy. Food helps to create lifelong memories,” says chef-artist-activist and social entrepreneur Kurt Evans. The CYL Hospitality Group swiss army knife can be found at the James Beard Taste America on March 28. Here, Evans chats pivotal career moments, his favorite dish and what’s new for 2023.
It's been a long journey to get to where you are today. What is one pivotal moment that you think really helped to make your career? I would say when I founded the End Mass Incarceration Dinner Series in 2017, that was a pivotal moment for me. It wasn't about the food but how I can use food to bring people together for a cause.
What are you most excited for when it comes to the JBF Taste America? This is my second Taste America, but I’m excited to rep my city in my city this time around. I’m happy to cook with fellow chefs' who have a commitment to their communities, and an investment in making the culinary industry more equitable and sustainable.
What is your favorite dish to make at home? Describe it. That is not an easily answered question, since I love food and love variety. If I had to go with one dish it would be oxtail lasagna, which is a three-layered pasta dish that consists of homemade sauce, braised oxtails, fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheese.
What is your favorite restaurant? I would have to say my favorite restaurant is Pera. Chef Mehmet Ergin is serving great food, fresh quality ingredients, a nice atmosphere and friendly staff.
What is your hope for Philadelphia's restaurant scene as it continues to grow? It’s going to continue to grow. Those behind our city’s dining diversity shine in many ways beyond their culinary creations. Our restaurant and hospitality community is a very tight one. I hope Philadelphians will continue to support local restaurants and chefs and help them succeed.
Anything new for you in 2023? I’m working on a restaurant project that’s going to be called The Last Dragon. We’re starting with pop-ups towards the third quarter of 2023. A lot of old Chinese takeout restaurants have shut down in various Black American neighborhoods creating a food desert. The idea was to try and revive these Chinese stores that are culturally relevant to Black Americans. The food will be tailored to Black American culture, because that’s the community we’re serving this food to, but it’s going to have flair from the Chinese dishes that were previously served in these types of stores.