Swelling with new restaurants, our cities are bursting with a variety of flavor. Even so, the ownership demographics are skewed.
"There seems to be such a gap in equity and who is getting all the business in the way downtown Durham is changing," says Erika Smith.
Erika and her sister, Courtney, started Piri (www.piridurham.com), their new family-owned catering business, to combat this evolution. Piri boasts the tagline, "Good. Black. Food."
Piri has been taking private gigs since last November, but it officially launched last month at Durham's Third Friday.
Born and raised in the South, with some travel abroad, the Smith sisters honor their Morganton-born great-grandmother, Sudie Kincaid, with a menu that serves collard greens, "3 cheese mac," and, soon, an apple-pear sauce that they grew up eating at her table.
"Our idea of Southern is wider because mac and cheese was a treat," says Courtney. "Most of what she cooked wasn't full of fat or sugar. On our menu we do try to incorporate influences that are Southern gourmet, but not laden with pork fat."
The menu includes lunch and dinner portions of meatloaf, coconut chicken with rice, marinated flank steak, seafood specials, and vegan options.
"The exciting thing is reconnecting to the different experiences we have across the African-American diaspora, how we all have similarities on some level," Courtney says of the new venture. "So much of what we connect across this experience is that we share being descendants of enslaved folks. Getting little bits and pieces of inspiration from that and tying it back to my roots here in the South."
Courtney is a baker at Loaf, but she started Piri with her family as a way to get back to cooking over the stove, where her culinary pursuits began years ago.
She stresses seasonal cooking. Erika points out that sourcing local ingredients prioritizes "the farmers who have been here for generations, especially disenfranchised farmers of color."
On Saturday from eleven a.m. to three-thirty p.m., Piri will be serving food on the sidewalk outside of at Exotique on Main Street in Durham. They'll be back at the space above Loaf on November 17 for Third Friday.