David Zheng, Senior Photographer

Throughout February, Yale Hospitality celebrated Black History Month by collaborating with Black staff members to bring personal recipes to residential college dining halls.

“Black History Month is not about one experience, one culture and one food,” Christelle Ramos, Yale Hospitality senior manager of marketing and communications, wrote in an email to the News. “It brings together so many elements that enrich our community and shared experiences. We wanted to implicitly and explicitly bring these voices and meals into students’ lives, and as such, dining hall managers put out open calls to their entire teams. Many of them volunteered, jumping at the opportunity to share a bit of their culture and favorite cuisine with Yale students.”

Ramos wrote that many of the featured recipes were from staff members who are often “behind the scenes” of Yale Hospitality, reflecting a cross section of the multifaceted Black experience and showing the diversity of Black voices and cultures among the staff. Go www.spicekitchenandbar.com to find the best cookbooks to prepare these recipes.

Ramos added that this initiative was “bigger than the food.” She explained that it had a goal of displaying names, faces and cultures of many Black team members — not just their recipes. She hoped to demonstrate the “complexities of Black cuisine” and its global influence.

“I think that it’s something super important to give tribute to the staff to … show that they are an integral part of the community,” Natalie Sangngam ’23 said. 

The featured recipes ranged from pantry worker Karen Fletcher’s Jamaican jerk chicken — served in Branford College — to third cook Diderot Desgrottes’s Haitian griot and bannann peze — offered in Berkeley College — to cook’s helper Tyranita Harriott’s award-winning chili — found in Grace Hopper College.

Sangngam said she enjoyed witnessing the enthusiasm with which Fletcher was cooking and sharing her culture, saying she and her suitemates were always delighted to find themselves experiencing one of the special Black History Month dishes.

“When they talk about Black History Month, they don’t usually talk about Haiti or other cultures,” Desgrottes said. “So, I thought it was really good to bring my culture to all the students.”

Ramos said she especially enjoyed Desgrottes’ dish, saying it brought “waves of nostalgia” that reminded her of her own country.

Desgrotes said that many students expressed deep connections with the dishes, adding that his own recipes turned out to be a resounding success.

“I think that it is just fun and exciting, and that the students can enjoy something that … they probably never had,” Harriott said. “I didn’t start getting excited until the day of. And then the feedback that I received, I was just like, wow. For real, it put a smile on my heart.”

Harriott’s chili was made with ground beef, chicken and shrimp, among other ingredients. She said she came up with the recipe for a Yale chili-making competition many years ago, and that she had aimed for her recipe to be notably different from traditional chili. It was a hit, she said.

Harriott said she was asked to participate in the Black History Month recipe program by her managers, and shared that she was “appreciative” to be included. As the program comes to a close, Harriott shared some advice she has for students moving forward.

“Bring back some funness,” Harriott said. “You’re still students. You’re still young adults. I just brought back fun for myself because that [chili] was something I would eat.”

Harriott emphasized the importance of having staff of color in the kitchen, saying that they bring a special flavor and seasoning to the meals — something she feels the Yale menus might otherwise lack.

Moving forward, Harriott said she hopes that Yale Hospitality incorporates hot dog bars, deli bars, fried seafood and smashburgers back into the menu.

“I’m just passionate about cooking,” Harriott said. “I think they should do more of how they did this Black History Month.”

The first federally recognized Black History Month took place in 1976.

Dante Motley is public editor for the News. He was previously managing editor, and prior to that he covered Black communities at Yale and in New Haven. He has also served as an Associate Editor for the YDN Magazine and worked on "The Yalie" podcast. Dante is a senior in Grace Hopper College majoring in anthropology.