Last night The Bronx held its first ‘Taste of The Bronx’ in several years but rather than choosing a Bronx location, Borough Hall decided to take it to Manhattan — and make it “by invitation only”.
That’s pretty much the sentiment of many Bronx residents when they learned that they were being excluded from one of our very own events that celebrate our culinary offerings.
In the past, ‘Taste of The Bronx’ wasn’t quite representative of our borough’s rich culinary diversity and pretty much focused on a handful of the usual suspects which everyone knows about.
This year’s participants were as diverse as the cultural tapestry that makes up our communities like newcomer Gun Hill Brewery, and mainstays like Havana Cafe, La Parrilla Latina, Nee-Rob, and Frankie & Johnny’s just to name a few.
Why couldn’t we do it at our beautiful Andrew Freedman Home, The New York Botanical Garden or one of our many amazing locations? Why was it an exclusive event by invitation only, excluding the very people who keep these businesses alive? The raison d’être, if you will, of these restaurants?
The reasoning that it was held in Manhattan according to John DeSio via Twitter, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr’s Director of Communications, was that, “I just couldn’t turn down a rooftop on Madison Ave…”.
To many, myself included it reeks of the tired, and horrible mantra that we keep hearing: The New Bronx. New for whom?
DeSio went on to say in an interview with DNAinfo, “We’re revitalizing the name as a different kind of thing… If we’re going to rebrand the Bronx, you have to get people to think differently about the borough.”
How do you do that without the resource that makes The Bronx, THE Bronx — its people?
“How can you introduce someone to a Bronx restaurant in Manhattan?” said Derek D. Watt an entrepreneur and Bronx resident.
Watt continued to say in the Facebook group, ‘Bronx Movers and Shakers’, “So Bronx restaurants are going to cook food in advance, bring it in warmers to a corporate office, compromising food quality? Patrons won’t even get the experience of dining in the actual restaurants. How are they going to determine if they want to go visit the space… It’s like me telling people to celebrate Brooklyn in crotona park. If you can’t convince media to come to the Bronx, you need to hire someone else to do the job.”
Some of Watt’s sentiments were echoed by many, including Michael Brady, a partner at Charlies Bar & Kitchen in Port Morris who attended the event.
“Firstly, the Taste of the Bronx should be in the Bronx. I understand that hosting it in Manhattan encourages Manhattan-based media to attend; however, by moving Bronx eateries to Manhattan you remove one of the very pillars that makes our restaurants so unique- the influence of our Borough’s environment. ” said Brady.
“Bronx restaurateurs are pioneers: often not equipped with steady foot traffic and the ability to price guage like Manhattan or Brooklyn counterparts. The move to Manhattan while creating a dialouge with Manhattan-based media, only costs restaurant owners more. In addition to creating food for the expected 100 invitees, we now must transport and staff the event while receiving no subsidy to do so. We are unique businesses, and food writers should see the environment we work with each day–there you can find the real story, ” added Brady in an interview with Welcome2TheBronx.
Even fans of the Bronx Borough President weren’t too thrilled. Emely commented that, “… I like his progressiveness so far but this is a minus for the BP…very backwards.”
According to a guest who attended ‘Taste of The Bronx’ last night and wished to remain anonymous, the event was not even well attended.
Alex Brown, a 25 year old student of Public Policy & Administration at Hostos Community College who works in IT and sales said, “The list is impressive after digging through social media and seeing Bronx businesses that are highlighted the event truly showcases the beautiful talent our borough produces. Unfortunately individuals like my self are not able to attend. The invite only event, in my eyes highlights the boroughs (politicians) active efforts to gentrify a beautiful community. If news outlets, bloggers, chefs and businesses aren’t willing to at least come to my borough to get a taste, what’s the point. In some ways this event is a slap in the face and words of discouragement to individuals like my self who set out a goal with intense passion to be apart of Bronx progress in a way that highlights the beautifies that exist today. I proudly highlight happenings amongst friends and family, always advocate for new services and the fair treatment as a city of one. How am I supposed to be and advocate for my own borough when I am not allowed to attend. What message are we sending out brothers and sisters outside of the Bronx? We can’t have nice things or events so we have to host them in Manhattan? I know that to not be true with all the positives happening. If turnout was of an issue maybe our politicians need to work at better PR for the borough. News outlets like Gothamist frequently post happenings all over except only highlight violence in our borough. We are a fun loving, caring, affectionate, passionate, eclectic community with pride for where we call home. I am happy to call the Bronx home and proud to pursue a higher education in my borough. I’m putting my future on the Bronx and it takes a lot of love for someone to do so.”
“Apparently, introducing these restaurants to people who live and work in the boro (who’d be more likely to go based on location alone) is a silly business idea,” said Derek D Watt. “Goes to show you the new Bronx isn’t about its residents, but outsiders.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post noted that Charlies Bar & Kitchen was featured in the event which was incorrect. Michael Brady, partner of the restaurant attended of the event. The post has been amended accordingly.
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