weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

New chef ‘residency’ brings Black restaurateurs to the Strip

A new type of residency program on the Strip launched to elevate Black restaurateurs and chefs.

PepsiCo Inc.’s initiative Pepsi Dig In is bringing its first-ever Restaurant Royalty Residency program to Las Vegas in partnership with MGM Resorts International. The residency aims to bring national awareness to the next generation of Black chefs and restaurateurs.

Five restaurants were selected to bring signature dishes from their restaurants for a four-week limited edition menu at Luxor’s Public House and Mandalay Bay’s Libertine Social.

The program starts on Sunday with an offering from James Beard Award-winning Chef JJ Johnson, who will introduce braised oxtails with jollof rice from his New York fast-casual dining concept FIELDTRIP.

“Bringing a selective group of restaurants to Las Vegas — it’s the kind of the place when you’re a chef that they say you made it,” Johnson said. “Vegas and MGM has elevated hundreds of chefs in their careers to get to a level that they couldn’t have gotten to on their own. Hopefully, one of these restaurants one day might have a restaurant in one of the hotels on the Strip.”

Scott Finlow, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Global Foodservice, said Pepsi Dig In started in 2021 to help Black-owned businesses have access to capital, technology, growth strategies and more.

“All small restaurants suffered due to the pandemic and many struggled to get access to government relief grants and adapt to the changes they needed to grow, like digital delivery,” Finlow said in an email. “For Black-owned restaurants, this was another headwind on top of the systemic barriers they’re already facing.”

The Dig In program attempts to address those issues by supporting access to new technology in point-of-sale and inventory systems, website development, coaching in social media and SEO tools and more. It also created a $10 million grant, through the PepsiCo Foundation and National Urban League, to establish a business accelerator program.

Restaurants chosen for the residency were nominated online, and nominations are still being accepted.

“The Black community has been entrepreneurs for years,” Johnson said. “We just haven’t had the capital to grow our businesses or to make it become something sustainable. Most of it is just, ‘Let’s try to earn money, put food on the table for the kids and put a roof over our head.’ Now with these last few years, Pepsi has been bridging the gap.”

The full lineup of the Restaurant Royalty Residency at Libertine Social and Public House:

— October 9 to November 5, FIELDTRIP founder and Chef JJ Johnson

The New York fast-casual dining experience is bringing hand cut braised oxtails in a cinnamon-scented broth with jollof rice, 5-hour cooked black beans, “Not Your Mama’s” collard greens, and more.

— November 6 to December 3, Trill Burgers by founder and rapper Bun B, formally known as Bernard Freeman

The Houston pop-up concept received national acclaim, and even longer lines, when it was named best burger in America in Good Morning America’s “United States of Burgers” competition this year. Now, Vegas fans can try the Trill House Burger, inspired by the creators of the OG Trill Burger, a special ground blend made from high-quality steak cuts.

— December 4-31, Slim and Husky’s cofounders Clint Gray, Derrick Moore, and EJ Reed

The Nashville artisan pizza shop with a love for hip-hop, R&B and art — and a memorable dessert — will serve its Cinnamon Roll Duo, featuring Sticky Fingaz with a whiskey sauce and Cookie Monster with peanut butter, white chocolate chips and cookie pieces.

— January 1-28, FoodChasers’ Kitchen owners and Chefs Maya and Kala Johnstone

A modern twist on traditional, homemade Southern cuisine, the Elkins Park, Pennsylvania restaurant will offer its secret spin on the classic Shrimp and Grits, created after their travels across the South.

— January 29 to February 25, Trap Kitchen owners and Chefs Malachi “Spank” Jenkins, Roberto “News” Smith and Eddie “Mikey” Bynum

The Los Angeles, California soul food concept that started by selling food out of Smith’s grandmother’s kitchen in Compton will bring their Trap Kitchen Pineapple Bowl, served inside half a pineapple with steak, shrimp, jasmine rice, and housemade sauces.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.