Pepper Pot Women and Black Culinary Entrepreneurship in Philadelphia


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Pepper Pot Women and Black Culinary Entrepreneurship in Philadelphia

February 1 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Join us as we celebrate Philadelphia’s culinary entrepreneurs with a classic dish

Thanks to the entrepreneurship of colonial Black women, pepper pot soup—a thick stew of beef tripe, vegetables, pepper, and other seasonings—became one of the first street foods in America. Join us for a tasting and discussion between two experts around the significance of the stew in the 19th-century culinary and business landscape.

Using the Food Griot’s research and Valerie Erwin’s culinary expertise, we will discuss how the West African and Caribbean roots of this signature dish have led to different variations and how the entrepreneurial spirit of so-called “Pepper Pot Women” and Black catering dynasties put Philadelphia cuisine on the map. Participants will have the opportunity to enjoy a pepper pot variation, prepared by a local Philly chef using historical recipes, during the program.

All proceeds from ticket sales go towards supporting the Culinary Literacy’s Center programs for youth, neighborhood engagement, and English language learning. A limited number of free tickets are available for SNAP-eligible families and for anyone who cannot afford the fee right now but would still like to participate. Please email for more information.

Tonya Hopkins, a.k.a “The Food Griot” is a Culinary History Consultant, Wine & Spirits Storyteller, Cocktail Cognoscenti and Provider of Nonfiction Food & Drink Narratives Across Many Mediums. She is the host of the weekly WURD program “Savory & Sweet: Food History & Culture,” has researched and written for several scholarly and consumer publications, and appears regularly on radio and television. Her work on Philadelphia culinary history and pepper pot specifically has been featured in Foodizen, The Chew, and The Inquirer.

Philadelphia native Valerie Erwin is a chef and a social justice activist. She owned the critically acclaimed Geechee Girl Rice Cafe For 12 years. For 2 years she managed the pay-what-you-can EAT (Everyone at the Table) Café. Since 2020, Valerie has been the program manager of Farm to Families, a produce access program of St Christopher’s Foundation for Children. She now focuses her attention on writing and speaking about food, culture, and food justice in the hospitality industry. She serves on the boards of Wyck, a historic house and farm in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood, and The People’s Kitchen, a mutual aid kitchen. and was featured in Netflix’s mini-series High on the Hog.


The Culinary Literacy Center at Parkway Central Library
1901 Vine Street, 4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103 United States