This weekend St. Louis will be represented by one of its top chefs at an important event celebrating Black foodways when Ben Welch shares his talents at the inaugural Bayhaven Food & Wine Festival. The event, which will take place this Friday through Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina, will feature some of the biggest names in the national culinary scene who are redefining American cuisine, and will raise awareness of and create opportunities for Black experts in the hospitality industry.
"I want to be a part of history," Welch says of his desire to participate. "To be seen and recognized as a chef, sometimes you have to create your own paths and change history."
Founded by two-time James Beard nominated chef Gregory Collier and his wife and business partner Subrina Collier, Bayhaven Food & Wine Festival has a mission of economic empowerment and community development through the hospitality industry. Chefs at this event — who were handpicked to participate — are considered to be some of the country's top culinarians. It's a group that Welch is humbled to be a part of.
"These are great, accomplished chefs of color," Welch says. "Eleven or twelve have had James Beard nominations and almost everyone has their own establishment. It's a great time for me to go out and show what I can do."
For Welch, whose current role is executive chef at the newly-opened Botanica (2490 Taylor Road, Wildwood; 636-821-1233)
in Wildwood, the opportunity to showcase his talents on the national scale has been a long time coming. For three decades, the veteran chef has been dazzling St. Louis with his skill at everything from barbecue to Southern and Mediterranean cuisine.
At Bayhaven, he will be showing off his talents as part of the event's Savoy Jazz Brunch on Sunday. There, he will be serving one of Botanica's signature dishes, a slow-roasted sweet potato with crispy ham, candied pecans, whipped ricotta and fermented garlic honey. However, more than just showcasing his cooking, Welch is excited to connect with his peers and show off the St. Louis food scene.
"Everything everyone is doing here is breaking the mold, and it feels good to be asked to be a part of it," Welch says. "The fact that they assembled this great cast of chefs is saying that they opened the door; you have to be serious and passionate, but the door is open if you want to walk through it."
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