Celebrity Chef Carla Hall serves as Culinary Ambassador
Washington, D.C. (Aug. 30, 2016) – Sweet Home Café, set to open in September with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is the newest dining experience at a Smithsonian museum. The café showcases the rich culture and history of the African American people with both traditionally authentic offerings as well as modern-day inspired foods. A joint venture between Thompson Hospitality and Restaurant Associates, the café sources produce from local crops when seasonally available, along with other sustainable sources, and prioritizes the sourcing of products from African American-owned businesses, producers and growers.
Celebrity chef Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s The Chew, serves as the culinary ambassador for Sweet Home Café. A previous competitor on Bravo’s “Top Chef” and graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, Hall has published several cookbooks and opened her first restaurant – Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen – in Brooklyn in June 2016.
“One of the best ways to get to know a culture is through its food. The National Museum of African American History and Culture will allow guests to live through the history of African American people. Sweet Home Café will showcase the important role food plays in that experience,” Hall remarked.
Renowned Chef Jerome Grant serves as the executive chef of Sweet Home Café. A native of Prince George’s County and graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh, Pa., Chef Grant began his culinary career working with his mother at Andrews Air Force Base Officer’s Club. His skills were further sharpened in the Virgin Islands where he was awarded “Best New Chef in St. Croix.” Since 2012, Chef Grant has been the executive chef of the Mitsitam Café at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, which won the 2012 RAMMY Award for Best Casual Restaurant.
“Each of the four regional stations in Sweet Home Café demonstrate the migration of African American people and culture through foodways,” explained Chef Grant. “While the café will showcase the very best versions of classic dishes, guests will also be surprised by new choices.”
Four Regional Tasting Stations
Sweet Home Café features traditional and modern-day food selections from four distinct geographical regions: the Agricultural South, the Creole Coast, the North States and the Western Range. Each station tells a story of the history of the highlighted region through a tailored offering. Guests have the ability to watch as the food is prepared, providing a full sensory experience and culinary engagement for each visitor.
Agricultural South: The South has always been the country’s bread basket. Products such as corn, stone-ground grits, Virginia ham, pecans and peaches have become staples of the American diet. Sample menu items at this station include: “Our Version” Buttermilk Fried Chicken with black pepper cornmeal waffles, sorghum syrup and farmhouse butter; and Original Brunswick Stew with braised chicken and rabbit, corn, tomatoes and lima beans.
Creole Coast: The cuisine of the Creole Coast has become world renowned for its unique flavors and ingredients, its laborious cooking techniques and its blending of West African, Native American, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Acadian cultures. Sample menu items at this station include: Gulf Shrimp & Anson Mills Stone Ground Grits with smoked tomato butter, caramelized leeks and crispy Tasso; and Pan-fried Louisiana Catfish Po’ boy with smoked red pepper rémoulade and green bean pickles.
North States: Both freed people along with those who had escaped the chains of slavery found refuge and opportunity in the North. The offerings at this station will include northern indigenous products along with flavors and techniques that people brought with them upon their migration. Sample menu items include: “Smoking Hot” Caribbean-style Pepper Pot and Thomas Downing-inspired NYC Oyster Pan Roast.
Western Range: After the Civil War, many African Americans sought new opportunities in the West. The cuisine was strongly influenced by Native American and Mexican culture. Familiar ingredients such as corn, peaches, turkey and squash took on new flavors by the addition of chilies, wild sage and Mexican oregano. Sample menu items at this station include: “Son of a Gun Stew” with braised short ribs, turnip, corn, potato, sundried tomato and barley; and Pan Roast Rainbow Trout with cornbread and mustard greens stuffing and hazelnut brown butter.
The Museum opens September 24, 2016. Sweet Home Café will operate from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on days the museum is open, serving lunch between 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The café seats approximately 400 people, and entrée prices will range from $8 – $15.
About the Operators
Thompson Hospitality, based in Reston, Va., is the largest minority-owned food service company in the United States and one of the largest retail food and facilities management companies in the country. Restaurant Associates, based in New York, N.Y., is recognized as the nation’s premier hospitality company, providing premium food services to museums, performing arts centers, aquariums, corporate dining and educational facilities as well as off-premise catering events. Restaurant Associates operates over 160 prestigious locations.
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