Eden Hagos

Eden Hagos is the founder of Black Foodie, an online platform that explores food through a Black lens. She aims to celebrate food from the African diaspora. For Eden, travel is more than just a passion - it helps her connect with the leading Black chefs, restaurants and food entrepreneurs that are creating magic in the food world. She’s hosted a series of pop-up Black Foodie events in Toronto, DC, Atlanta, and London, UK and has had her work featured in Afroelle Magazine.


What inspired you to found blackfoodie.co?

I’ve always been interested in food and, of course, I love to eat! My family opened one of the first Ethiopian restaurants in Windsor and my grandparents previously owned a cafe and spice market back in East Africa, so I grew up surrounded by people who were incredibly talented and passionate about food. However, it was a negative experience that I had while dining out in Toronto for my birthday that really got me thinking about food and race more critically. I ended up leaving the restaurant that night, embarrassed, upset and feeling threatened. An experience like that really sticks with you. I started wondering about the ways in which Black people experience the food world differently and I began reflecting on my own dining choices. I realized that I hadn’t even thought to celebrate at an African or Caribbean restaurant. From then on, I became more intentional about my dining choices and sought to explore the food world from a uniquely Black lens. I also wanted to connect other folks like me and provide Black Foodies from around the world with a great resource. After several months of traveling and experimenting, Black Foodie was born.


Your business offers people the opportunity to explore food and lifestyle through a Black lens -- what in particular makes this perspective so unique; what does it mean to be a black foodie?

Black Foodie offers insights on food from a context that places black people at the centre. What makes this unique is that it brings voices, recipes and experiences that have been ignored from mainstream media, to the forefront. Conversations like, ‘who has the best version of Jollof rice’ or ‘where to go for the best brunch party’, are examples of what we spotlight on Black Foodie.

My community loves to cook too; we go to food festivals and we love to eat! I find that my definition of a Black Foodie is evolving as I learn, but in essence, it’s someone who enjoys experiencing food and has a hunger to learn more about what’s on their plate.


Earlier this year you shared a reflection on your website about a highly disturbing encounter with racism that you’d experienced in a restaurant — and on your birthday, too! What realities and bigger issues of racism in the food industry did this negative experience bring to light?

Racism affects the food industry at every level, from how food is taught and discussed to the way it is experienced. There are stereotypes about black people that influence the way we are served when we go out to eat. After sharing my experience, I heard everything from the assumptions that: black diners are difficult, they don’t tip, they’re disruptive and ultimately unworthy of good service; the list goes on. These perceptions impact us and are inherently racist. But beyond what we experience on an interpersonal level, racism infiltrates the ways in which food is discussed throughout the media. It influences who’s deemed as industry experts and what foods are acceptable. By creating Black Foodie, I’ve had the opportunity to find out about many of the positive things happening - from discovering an amazing Caribbean food festival in Montreal to interviewing a group of innovative African chefs with a supper club in London, UK who created a cookbook to document their journey - there are countless resilient people influencing the food world.


How do you differentiate between the support of foreign cuisines and their appropriation in restaurant kitchens?

I think it’s great that chefs are incorporating global flavors and techniques into their kitchens. But I’m always interested in knowing who’s benefiting - do these restaurants acknowledge what inspired their dishes? Are they hiring people from these communities? Would guests from racialized communities be welcomed? I also question when others become the face of that foreign cuisine, or their westernized version is deemed superior.


Have you observed progress in the success and better representation of black cuisine and industry professionals in Toronto, since you first started your business?

I’ve noticed several Black-owned restaurants and food entrepreneurs emerging in the city. I’ve also observed a desire from Black foodies in the city to connect with these new businesses as well as to learn their cultural ways of preparing food. I definitely consider this progress. I’m also very proud of the fact that my events have introduced people to Caribbean and African restaurants in Toronto, giving them an opportunity to support and learn from local food entrepreneurs.


What are some existing red-flags and examples of racism within the industry, amongst either consumers or professionals, that you would like to see better recognized and confronted?

That’s an interesting question, but rather difficult to answer because racism in the food industry, much like the rest of our society, is often covert. From a consumer’s perspective, there are multiple ways in which staff can make racialized guests feel unwelcome or uneasy and yet still be subtle in their delivery. Then, there are examples such as the dress code policies enforced by restaurants that are racist, like the recent case of a Black woman in Toronto who was sent home from work because of her hairstyle. I’d like to see this acknowledged - racism doesn’t always come in the form of someone yelling out the N word. It’s ingrained into our society. It’s the type of thinking that would lead to a policy that rewards female employees with straight hair and alienates, embarrasses and punishes a black employee who doesn’t fit that “norm”. I’d encourage people to check their privilege and question the current societal benchmarks.


Regarding your work and business, what actions are you taking to demand the proportionate representation of black professionals and cuisine within our food industry? What can we be doing as consumers to support this vital change?

With Black Foodie, I seek to spotlight the strides that are being made in the Black food world. This involves everything from showcasing cookbooks by Black authors, to events, restaurants and food entrepreneurs, who are changing the game. A longer term goal is to create a structure around this, by hosting a conference or festival, that brings people together with influential chefs, food entrepreneurs, historians etc to connect, educate and empower Black innovators in the food world, as well as to educate others outside of this community. I hope this will lead to a change in the way our food industry operates, leading to a greater recognition of Black food professionals and cuisines.

I encourage consumers to seek out alternative food media platforms like blackfoodie.co and to gather a number of diverse opinions on what’s occurring in the food world. I’d also encourage consumers to seek out opportunities to experience foods from the African diaspora, try cooking with these ingredients, and to pick up a cookbook that showcases these foods. There’s more to Caribbean cuisine than jerk chicken and more to African food than injera (although - both are delicious!); so get out and there and mix it up a bit!