As many prepare to commemorate Bastille Day, a French holiday that celebrates the unity of French people on July 14, the San Francisco-based organization Maison de la Culture Noire Américaine (MCNA) is planning a celebration of its own that will feature culture, history, food and wine with special guest chef Jennifer Hill Booker, who studied and trained in Paris.
The celebration will begin on Saturday, July 11 with a book signing in Oakland and continues with a cooking demo at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and will culminate on Bastille Day at the Fenix in San Rafael as chef Booker partners with chef Glen “Gator” Thompson for a 9-course prix fixe dinner paired with wines.
MCNA was founded in 2013 by French enthusiast Robin Bates who first fell in love with the culture, art and history (past and present) in 1989 after studying abroad. “I came back with the desire to share that information with other people,” says Bates referring to her excitement about discovering Blacks deep and rich history in France; something she says was not made known prior to her trip.
Finding a Common Bond
While abroad, Bates met friend and MCNA assistant director Connie Bryan who also shares Bates' love of all things French. The two bonded over the appreciation for the culture, history and most importantly the desire to showcase and share Blacks’ impact, influence and footprint in the country. “We just both really feed on our passion for the subject,” says Bryan who remembers her sister joining the Peace Corps and then coming home speaking French.
“What we both found is that initially you go to France or to Paris because you have this passion about the French culture, but I don’t think either one of us was expecting to come away from that trip with a deeper, more profound of our history in France,” says Bates.
Prior to starting MCNA, Bates was sharing and bridging the information gap on her site, Café de la Soul, which was a portal to connect Blacks with Black Paris. From museums, celebrity dwellings and cafés to where to get your hair done, Bates’ goal was and continues to help individuals craft the tour or trip of their dreams.
Bates reached out to Booker upon learning about the release of her debut cookbook, “Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent” who responded with nothing less than excitement and wanted to highlight the French elements of the book that were often overlooked. Another French connection was born.
Before the Bastille Day Celebration
With her creative juices flowing, Bates and her team curated events leading up to July 14 that include:
Meet The Chef Book Signing & Tasting
July 11 | Octopus Literary Salon, Oakland, CA | 2-5 pm | $35 | Purchase Tickets
Hands-On Cooking Demo @ Le Cordon Bleu
July 13 | Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco | 6-9 pm | $125 | Purchase Tickets
Meet The Chef Book Signing & Tasting
July 14 | Copperfield’s, San Rafael, CA | 12-1:30 pm | FREE
Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler Bastille Day Celebration
July 14 | Le Fenix, San Rafael, CA | 6:30 pm | $110 / $85 | Purchase Tickets
“This is our first culinary series event ever so we are really excited about that. There is something in there for everyone,” says Bates referring to the price points of the events which range from free to $125.
The book signing on July 11th comes with an autographed book and tastings, the cooking demo at Le Cordon includes an apron, recipe cards and copy of the book and the dinner on Bastille Day will be 9 courses paired with wines from Roots of Peace, an organization that removes mines and turns the land into vineyards where grapes are grown and harvested for winemaking.
Tickets are sure to go fast as this will be a Bastille Day celebration that you don’t want to miss.
MCNA also hosts a variety of other events and gatherings throughout the year and is planning a culinary trip back to Paris in 2016 with Chef Booker.
Be sure to sign up for MCNA’s newsletter to be the first to know about all things Black Paris by going to www.maisoncna.org.
This article contains an affiliate link. Please see our disclosure for more information.