How on-site dining is celebrating Juneteenth through food

Foodservice operations are celebrating the holiday with culturally diverse food, special menus, culinary demonstrations and more.
UConn Health Cooks Chef Mike Walker, Chef Judith "JuJu" Morrison, and Chef Anthony Cardwell
UConn Health Cooks Chef Mike Walker, Chef Judith "JuJu" Morrison, and Chef Anthony Cardwell.| Photo by Lauren Woods.

Juneteenth, the day in which African American people were freed from slavery in the U.S., is an important holiday that oftentimes gets overlooked. A little history behind Juneteenth: while the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect in 1863, it couldn’t be implemented in areas under Confederate control. Because of this, enslaved people in the Confederate state of Texas were not free until years later. It was on June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in Texas and announced that more than 250,000 enslaved people were freed by executive order. Now, this day is known as Juneteenth, a holiday marking the U.S.’ second independence day.  The holiday has been long celebrated in the African American community but until 2021, Juneteenth was not an official American federal holiday.

Food is oftentimes tied to culture and history, and this day presents a great opportunity to lean into Black cuisine, while reminding diners of an important holiday. This year, foodservice operations are planning to celebrate in many ways, namely through creative and culturally rich menus. Here’s a look at what’s on the agenda for foodservice operations this Juneteenth.

Chefs unleash their creativity at UConn Health

The dining team at UConn Health curated three special menus in honor of Juneteenth, with three different chefs spearheading their own individual menu. The special menus will be served at the healthcare facility’s main campus on June 14, 17 and 18.

The menu on the 14., which was created by Chef Anthony Cardwell, is focused on barbeque. Cardwell decided to focus on this as that cuisine sparks memories of sharing food with family for him. On offer will be BBQ ribs, pulled chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob, dirty rice, macaroni salad, honey cornbread and watermelon.

“Juneteenth is a reminder of a time when African American people were enslaved in our country, and how so many people fought for our freedom,” said Cardwell in a statement. “For me to be able to work in an environment like UConn Health, a place where I have worked for 13 years, is great. African Americans didn’t always have this opportunity. Now, that’s a great feeling.”

The menu for the 17. was developed by Chef Mike Walker, who has worked at UConn Health for ten years. The idea behind his menu was to represent bringing together the various cultures of Black people. On his menu line up is sauteed shrimp, fried fish, grits with cheese, fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes, succotash and banana cream pudding pie.

“My menu brings together all types of ethnic food,” said Walker, in a statement.  “I love seafood. I love veggies. We appreciate the opportunity we have been given this Juneteenth to show off our talents.”

Closing off the celebration on the 19 is Chef Judith “JuJu” Morrison’s menu. For her menu, she aimed to pay homage to the culture of Jamaica, which is where she is originally from. On offer will be braised oxtails with butter beans, mac and cheese, curried chicken, rice and kidney beans in coconut milk, sauteed cabbage and carrots, garlic green beans, honey cornbread and pineapple cake.

“As an immigrant, I am learning the American culture. Coming here to share my food from Jamaica is a privilege. Jamaica too has a history of slavery, and it is very diverse. We communicate through food,” said Morrison. “Sharing my food is sharing history and love through food.”

Music, food and more at Michigan State University

Michigan State University (MSU) has a big celebration in store for Juneteenth this year. The 4th annual MSU Juneteenth Commemorative Celebration will take place on June 14., and diners, staff, faulty and the local community are invited to join in the celebration which will feature live music, discussions of the significance of the holiday and of course, food. The food will be served by MSU’s Kellogg Catering and a local Black-owned business, Sweet Encounter. For an entree, guests can choose between southern fried catfish nuggets, oven-baked BBQ chicken and vegan karma cauliflower curry. For sides, angel eggs, macaroni and cheese and vegan collard greens and corned muffins are on the menu. And for dessert, the team will serve up gluten-free mini red velvet cupcakes, vegan mini sweet potato pies, mini cheesecake with cherries and cherry jubilee ice cream.

Cooking demos at Stanford University

From visual art exhibits to special film screenings, Stanford University has a plethora of Juneteenth events in store for diners this year. The dining team is getting involved by hosting a couple cooking demonstrations. The first demonstration is to be led by executive chefs at the university, Terry Braggs and William Montagne. The two will create several dishes aiming to celebrate the diversity of Black culinary culture. The demonstration will include soul classics as well as dishes with creative twists.

The second demonstration will be led by executive chef at the university Terry Braggs, who will feature dishes rooted in the Black culinary tradition.

For a more educational session, diners can check out Stanford’s Food and Community event. During which, Chef Dillon Campbell will sample fried fish, jerk chicken and other dishes. He will also discuss the historical significance of the menu items and their importance within the African American community.

And for diners who may feel like staying home but still want to celebrate with food, Cardinal Café on campus will offer a special meal kit. On offer is crawfish etouffee with rice, collard greens and peach crumble pie for dessert.



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