Getting to Know: Eden Hagos
Founder of Black Foodie
With an immigration population of over 50%, Toronto’s culinary landscape spreads across the world — from Italian and Greek to Japanese and Indian, but the presence of African, Caribbean and Southern cuisine is once again on the rise. Eden Hagos, owner of Black Foodie, acknowledges this with her online platform, saying, “It explores food through a Black lens to tell our stories through food. The African diaspora has some of the most amazing food ever. We have great restaurants, cookbooks, spices, events — the list goes on. Black Foodie brings together this information so that you can experience the best in our flavours, connect with other foodies and get relevant insights on issues in the food world. My role is to identify opportunities to take our flavour further.”
Eden’s passion for food steams from a long family history. “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,” she says. However, it wasn’t necessarily her family’s history with food that pushed her to start Black Foodie, but rather a daunting experience. “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 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.”
After reviving the Ethiopian Students Association dung her academic journey, Eden started connected students to mentors, and create a space for knowledge sharing activities, as well as create programming and events for racialized students. Understanding these gaps in education also lead Eden to understand the gaps in the culinary world, so she vowed to make even bigger changes through Black Foodie — however, it hasn’t been easy.
“A growing pain that I’ve come across that nobody told me about was to be prepared for was direct opposition and hate. I’m doing a project that is loosely connected to race and identity where I operate much of it online- so I received quite a bit of hate both online and offline,” Eden states. “Some of it in the form of direct ugly hateful views of Black people. But more interesting, has been the messages and feedback that underestimate a Black audience and/or the accomplishments of Black chefs, restaurateurs, and consumers.”
As opposed to breaking down, Eden now uses this negativity to fuel her platform. Not only does she collaborate with other chefs and other foodies, with the proper investment, Eden wants to take Black Foodie to a whole new level, including a documentary series that focuses on issues in the Black Foodie world. “Imagine if the Food Network produced content that was relevant to a Black audience?,” she asks. “I’d create more video content to fill that gap and use that to expand my brand. I’d also take a portion and invest in Black Food entrepreneurs. There is so much potential in African and Caribbean food and I think it’s only a matter of time until Nigerian or Ethiopian food products are just as common as other popular ethnic food products,” she continues.
With a plate full of ideas, Eden’s Black Foodie journey is endless. While she’d like to create an international event that celebrates the work and cuisine of Black Foodies, for now, you can check out her website blackfoodie.co. as well as the social media links below, and join her newsletter to hear about their next local event!
Story written by Erin Ashley.
Eden is a participant in the Hook It Up program delivered by Socent7. Hook It Up is a support program for young social entrepreneurs in Ontario. Learn more at www.hookitup.ca.
**END OF PROGRAM UPDATE** Eden grew her event attendance 5x over the summer and has been able to attract significant media attention. Her top learning: “often times passion can motivate people even more than money. I would encourage entrepreneurs to find others with a similar passion- those people will be a great support as you build”.