Gumbo Fest brought two victories for Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant and the Prospect KC.
Not only did the weekend event earlier this month raise money to support the Prospect KC’s mission — empowering individuals and communities through increased food access, nutrition education and culinary job training — the Prospect KC’s culinary students also took home the award for best gumbo.
“The success of this year’s festival was a testament to the incredible community spirit that surrounds us,” shared McAfee-Bryant, founder and executive director of the Prospect KC, as well as leader organizer of its annual Gumbo Fest competition. “Together, we created a vibrant tapestry of flavors, cultures, and compassion that reminded us of the power of good food and good company. From the delightful aromas that wafted through the air to the joyful sounds of laughter and live music, we gathered vibrantly through the philosophy that gumbo represents.”
Community members braved cool fall temperatures and drizzle to attend the second year for Gumbo Fest — a popup event Oct. 15 on the patio of The Spot, the Prospect KC’s “for purpose” urban eatery in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District.
The students who cooked up the winning entry are a part of Prospect KC’s current cohort for its 16-week job training program, where “prospects” receive on-the-job culinary training.
“(This student cohort) is an enthusiastic, talented group of individuals eager to learn and practice culinary and technical skills leading to apprenticeships and employment as part of our progressive, on-the-job training and classroom instruction,” McAfee-Bryant said. “They also produce high-quality food for The Spot café and coffeeshop and meals for those in the community who need access to healthier food options.”
McAfee-Bryant was inspired to start the competition after reading former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial’s book “The Gumbo Coalition,” in which he uses gumbo as a symbol for community development, she said.
“The event celebrates the revitalization of the financially disinvested east side and speaks of the hope for the future,” McAfee-Bryant noted in a news release.
The winning gumbo entry from the Prospect KC’s culinary students bested six other entries — including the 2022 winner, Chef Bradley Gilmore of Lula Southern Cookhouse — and impressed the panel of judges: Ryana Parks-Shaw, mayor pro tem for Kansas City, Missouri; Shaylyn Dean, director of external affairs for Spire; Drew Eanes, senior client solutions manager at JE Dunn; Katie Van Luchene, lifestyle columnist and author; Dia Wall, KSHB news anchor; and Loren Hallifax, WDAF news anchor.
“The presentation of the seafood skewer was a great touch and the cornbread on top added a nice complement to the flavor,” Wall said about the students’ entry.
“The depth of flavor in the roux was the perfect mix of spicy and rich,” Dean added.
Gilmore’s gumbo entry for Lula took second place with Waldo Thai’s earning third. The entry from BoysGrow — a nonprofit organization that mentors urban youth through agricultural entrepreneurship — won the People’s Choice Award.
Check out a gallery of additional photos from Gumbo Fest below.