Antwon Brinson didn’t want the day to be about him, but there was no avoiding it.
Without him, Sunday’s Positive Kulture Fest wouldn’t have happened.
Without his teachings, many of the cooks wouldn’t have served a vast variety of dishes in the sweltering heat at the IX Art Park.
Those cooks were dishing out traditional dishes of the Middle East, Haiti and Burma alongside down-home soul food and barbecue.
Brinson is the mind behind Culinary Concepts, a food “boot camp” that started last spring. Most of Sunday’s cooks were former students.
The class includes a week where students can bring in family recipes for traditional dishes. That exchange of cultures, Brinson said, sparked his idea for the Positive Kulture Fest.
“The thought process was, ‘what if I could take this amazing experience, this diverse experience of culture and put it out into the world?’” he said.
Brinson said the city’s restaurant lineup doesn’t mirror its diversity.
“At the end of the day, I just wanted to put on something to showcase the diversity of the food scene we have in Charlottesville,” he said.
Yu Prue echoed that sentiment. She was serving Burmese curry, which consists of rice and potatoes.
“I just want people to learn more about Burmese culture,” she said. “We don’t have any Burmese restaurants in Charlottesville or other states.”
Some of Brinson’s students, such as Nakesha White, have turned their talents into business success stories.
White, who was selling cake, cupcakes and candy apples at Sunday’s event, was operating a catering company when she took Brinson’s class earlier this year. One day, she had an epiphany.
“I just decided one day when we were in the kitchen cooking, ‘hey I’m going to open a restaurant,’” she said. “And chef thought maybe that was a future goal or something. I was like, ‘no, you don’t hear me. I’m going to open up a restaurant next month.’”
On May 4, White opened Royalty Eats on Cherry Avenue and has been cooking for the community ever since.
“It gave me a different vision and outlook on food,” she said.
As much as he didn’t want to take credit, Brinson was the driving force behind Sunday’s festival.
“I didn’t want this to be about me. If you look around, you don’t see my company’s name on anything,” he said. “I gave this festival its own name. I want it to have its own energy and I wanted the folks in this community to really have a platform to showcase their own skills.”
Brinson gave credit to the city’s Unity Days committee, which gave about $5,000 toward the festival, for making the event happen.
“This city has a lot of diverse cultures,” said Dan Hennicke, co-chair of the committee that planned July’s Unity Days activities. “This event was able to bring diverse cultures out in the community to show off something that’s dear to them.”