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    Eat & Swig

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    Photos by Jessica Ebelhar

    ​Disclaimer: Louisville Magazine is a sponsor of the Taste of West Louisville.

    Photo: Fredricks' shrimp with pasta.

    “I guess things are starting to pick up for me,” says Lake Langdon, who runs Marinations Catering out of Chef Space, the kitchen incubator in Russell. A barber by trade, Langdon wanted to try something different and several years ago started selling burgers, rib tips — “stuff you can put on the grill,” he says. In 2015, he was the first business to move into Chef Space’s industrial kitchen, run by the nonprofit Community Ventures Corp. He has since done so much catering, he says, that it’s putting an end to barbering, much to the dismay of his longtime clientele. When I meet with him, three people call to put in orders. He’s in the process of becoming the second chef to go through Jay’s 120, which will allow him to test out his business as a fast-casual restaurant at Chef Space before he looks to open his own location.

    He’s also one of the dozens of cooks that have served food at the annual Taste of West Louisville, a pre-Derby event that brings in hundreds of patrons to try food — everything from cupcakes to barbecue to juice blends — from 20 local vendors. Its founder, Keisha Allen, attended the Taste of South Louisville at Churchill Downs in summer 2014. “I was looking around and I was like, I think we can do this in our own community, in the West End,” she says. She started asking around to gauge the interests of restaurants and caterers, and launched the next spring. Not all vendors are based in west Louisville, but those from the area include pay-what-you-can concept The Table and CJ’s Soul Food & Catering. This is the event’s fourth year and it has grown from the Shawnee Arts & Cultural Center to the California Community Center. Allen, who works in finance for the city, wanted the Taste of West Louisville not only to promote entrepreneurship but also education, so the event raises money and attracts sponsors to help give away several $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors entering college. There’s usually an entertainment component as well — one year, the Simmons College band performed.

    Jerriel Bell, who opened Fredricks inside the St. Stephen Church Family Life Center in January 2017, brought chicken and waffles last year and plans to participate again this year. The chefs say that the event has been a great place to network and share advice, in addition to attracting new customers who may not have heard of them. “The vibe was amazing,” Bell says of last year’s event. “It was a lot of entrepreneurs trying to push their product. When you are doing the same thing as someone else, you can only assume that they’re going through the same struggles and you can only admire that.” He and the other chefs I interviewed for this story make it clear that they and other restaurants in the area do more than serve food. “The best way that I figured I could give back is by coming back and being successful,” says Bell, who worked as a chef in the Army for 10 years and was a personal chef in D.C. and Atlanta. He says he has helped a homeless man get cleaned up and has fed him in exchange for taking out the trash. “I got an open door if any kid wants to come in and learn how to cook,” he says.

    Photo: Marinations Catering's Asian stir-fry and turkey wings.

    At Sweet Peaches, next to Chef Space at 18th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, owner Pamela Haines recently celebrated — or, rather, was so busy she forgot to celebrate — four years in business. Last fall she opened a second location in the Nia Center, an entrepreneurial-development center at 29th and Broadway, and she says her catering business has taken off. She usually brings a hearty soup and a sweet baked good to the Taste. “I use food as a way to figure out people, to help people,” she says. “This is just a façade, but my real thing is to get them in here and help them. Like the guys, if they’re locked up in jail — you can talk to them: ‘When I get out I’m gonna get my free meal from Ms. Peaches.’”

    Photo: Carrot cake with burnt buttercream icing from Sweet Peaches.

    At this year’s Taste, on April 14, Langdon will serve wings and Asian stir-fry, which he says won WAVE-3 anchor Dawne Gee’s vegan challenge that Chef Space hosted. Bell and Langdon both bemoan being pegged as soul food. “Why spend $80,000 on an education just to do soul food when I can do so much more?” says Bell, who has a degree in culinary management and was exposed to different cuisines while traveling in the Army. “I had people walk in this door and walk back out when they found out that I did not have fried chicken. That’s why we now have fried chicken every day.” Aside from the common soul food dishes like greens and catfish, Bell also makes a rich shrimp and grits and will often do fettuccine Alfredo or gumbo. He says that he wishes people would be a little more adventurous — he’s itching to throw in some Korean or Mexican flavors — but that the Taste is an opportunity to do just that, as a patron and a chef.

    With the Taste, Allen looks to a bigger future, possibly hosting next year’s event at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage and including drinks from local breweries, wineries and distilleries. In the meantime, she’ll be eating her way to discovering new vendors. “I am a foodie anyway,” she says. “Anytime a new restaurant pops up, I’m there.”

    This year's Taste of West Louisville will be held April 14. Learn more here.

    This originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine. Every story in our March issue is about west Louisville, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Click here to read more from part four of our series on the West End.

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    Cover photo: A meal from Fredericks.

    Mary Chellis Nelson's picture

    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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