New York’s first African Food Festival makes its delicious debut this weekend


TKTK, founder of the New York African Food Festival. Photo: NYAFF

Ishmael Osekre, founder of the New York African Food Festival. Photo: NYAFF

For Ishmael Osekre, the founder of this weekend’s inaugural New York African Food Festival, the project was an experiment gone viral. ”Originally I wanted to do a small proof of concept in Dumbo for about 500 people” says, Osekre, who heads Afropolitan Insights. Ten days after its launch, the event site had 1 million views and 12,000 people interested in the Facebook event, all with ticket sales to match before there was even any sort of lineup for the festival. From there, Osekre moved quickly, moving it to larger quarters, recruiting chefs, bringing in experience architects, and curating a thrilling assortment of artists and vendors for New York City’s first immersive taste of Africa.

“African music and fashion have always had steady momentum and exposure in mainstream American culture; African food hasn’t” explains Osekre. So for two days Osekre plans to transform the Brooklyn Navy Yard into a celebration of African culture from all corners of the diaspora. Along with an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, shisha lounge, hair wrap demos, a queen’s lounge stocked with African designs, a photo booth designed by Beyoncé-approved artist Laolu Sebanjo, and live music, there will, of course, be food.


Photo: African Food Festival

“Truly, African food is consistently an exciting treat of tastes,” says Osekre, who hopes the festival will, in its own way, influence some of the narrative around Africa through culinary history and tradition. Festival goers should keep an eye out for puff-puffs (deep-fried Nigerian donuts), jollof (a popular West African one-pot rice dish cooked in a tomato sauce), hibiscus and ginger juices, suya (spicy kebabs), shito (a beloved black pepper sauce that originated in Ghana), injera (an East African sourdough flatbread that often acts as a plate for salad or meat piled on top of it that fans of Ethiopian cuisine will recognize), and many vegan and vegetarian options.

Along with tastings, demonstrations, and mini-cooking lessons, there are VIP tickets that offer access to even more food and time with celebrated African chefs. On Saturday, Nigerian-born chef Grace Odogbili will prepare a vegan brunch with bottomless African superfood smoothies ($90) and a five-course, pan-African dinner ($150) that includes Egyptian stuffed vine leaves with roasted garlic puree, curry goat ravioli, steamed bean cakes, and Egyptian honey wine and beer.

In other words, the inimitable spices, aromas, and styles of African cuisine will be at your fingertips and on your lips, this weekend. “When all is said and done, we want folks to come and have good food, a great experience, and a lot of good laughs” says Osekre. “Just the way we live back home.”

New York African Food Festival
Brooklyn Navy Yard
63 Flushing Avenue
Saturday, August 13
Sunday, August 14
Tickets start at $30

5 Responses

  1. Mishi Faruqee -

    I went to the event and it was a total scam. The event was advertised as a festival with over 25 food vendors. When we arrived there was only ONE food vendor. People were being charged $40 just to enter the “festival” and that entrance fee did not actually include any food. The “festival” organizers should refund all tickets!

  2. Allegra -

    It’s too bad this event completely failed to deliver on all accounts. There were only 4 vendors there, no entertainment or demos of any kind, and 1,000 people crammed into a greenhouse without air conditioning! To say it was disappointing would be putting it very lightly. I waited on line for 1.5 hours to get a plate of sides since I’m vegetarian and the promised veggie entrees didn’t exist. The people who paid $150 for the VIP tickets and “access to even more food and time with celebrated African chefs” waited over two hours for the chefs to even show up (and some never did), and reportedly had to fight for scraps of food that were slowly filtering out from a kitchen in appetizer-sized bites.

    I’m not writing this to criticize Brooklyn Based, but rather as a warning for potential event goers who are as excited about this as I was. African food doesn’t get enough time to shine and unfortunately this is not the event to change that. Read the Facebook reviews and go to a local restaurant with your hard-earned money instead.

  3. Doses -

    This event organizer is notorious for disorganization and being a scammer. He organized Afrikcan Festival at La Marina and that was a disaster too. There wasn’t many merchandise vendors in general and food vendors weren’t present as promised. Just another chapter from his play book.

  4. EAB -

    This event was a failure and everyone should get refunds. This headline should be changed or at least a new article should be written updating everyone about what REALLY happened.


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