Asheville’s African-American Restaurant Owners and Workers Honored During Black History Month

Octavius Boozier, a Kitchen Ready graduate and line cook at Juicy Lucy’s Burger Bar, speaks to attendees at a Black History Month Reception honoring African American restaurant workers, held at Calypso, a St. Lucian restaurant in downtown Asheville.


Today, February 28, is the final day of Black History Month.


Last Wednesday, February 22, Asheville Kitchen Cabinet, Green Opportunities, and Calypso co-hosted a reception to honor the contributions of Black Americans to Asheville’s restaurant industry. Six individuals were celebrated at the event, including Green Opportunities’ Executive Chef Instructor Gene Ettison, and three Kitchen Ready graduates: Hanan Shabazz (former Kitchen Ready teaching chef), Octavius Boozier, and Marie Johnson.


Asheville Kitchen Cabinet–a civic engagement program committed to growing and preserving opportunity in the restaurant industry–complied the stories of Gene, Octavius, Hanan, and Marie, along with those of Calypso owner Esther Joseph, and Addissea co-owner Neeraj Kebede, in a Black History Month flip-book.


City Councilwoman Julie Mayfield attended the event to present a City of Asheville Proclamation signed by Mayor Esther Manheimer, which recognizes the contributions made to the local workforce and economy by African Americans. The City of Asheville Proclamation reads in part:


“Whereas, February 1 through February 28 has been declared as African American History Month in celebration of achievements by African Americans, and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. History and the fabric of Asheville; and


Whereas, African Americans in the City of Asheville make up a significant portion of the labor force, working as elected officials, CEOs, teachers, police officers, technicians, physicians, entrepreneurs and all other professions. Today we specifically highlight African Americans in our community who have leveraged the restaurant industry as a platform for pursuing their version of the American dream; and


Whereas, African American restaurateurs exemplify our local entrepreneurs and employers, undergoing great risk and sacrifice to pursue their passion for the culinary arts, meanwhile opening doors of opportunity for a team to succeed alongside them; and


Whereas, African American managers and operators are the backbone of Asheville’s thriving hospitality industry, ensuring our city’s cultural core is running smoothly for all citizens to enjoy; and


Whereas, when African Americans succeed, in any industry, our nation, our state, our region and our city succeeds.”


Green Opportunities is proud of the work we do to help provide a diverse, skilled, and passionate workforce for Asheville’s restaurant and hospitality sector. Thank you to Asheville Kitchen Cabinet for compiling these stories an organizing this event.