Asheville’s restaurant scene is one of the big reasons why the city’s national profile continues to rise. African-American restauranteurs, chefs, and cooks will be honored at an event Wednesday afternoon showcasing the role Asheville’s black population has in the industry.
Asheville’s unemployment rate stood at 4 percent at the end of last year. That figure for the city’s black population is several times higher. One of the barriers to employment for African-Americans is many jobs require criminal background checks that disqualify or discourage many prospective black workers, especially black men. That’s according to J. Hackett, the executive director of Green Opportunities, a non-profit that focuses on job training. But that isn’t the case in the food and hospitality industries Hackett says because second chances are encouraged there, and all that really matters is the food you prepare and present to your customers.
“And in that regard, people are able to remove their differences and just see humans for humans. The entire culinary industry is all about recognizing humanity and celebrating people for who they are", says Hackett. "And not necessarily what they have done (previously in their lives) that is so good or what they have done is so bad.”
Two graduates of Green Opportunities kitchen school that now work in Asheville restaurants will be honored today, as well as two instructors from the program. The event, held in partnership with Asheville Kitchen Cabinet, will be held at Calypso on North Lexington Avenue.