Honor fathers and celebrate Juneteenth at Family Food Fest

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Formerly known as Real Men Cook Atlanta, the event happens June 19

Family Food Fest Atlanta is returning and celebrating its 20th anniversary at Georgia Railroad Freight Depot on June 19.

The annual multicultural food tasting event originally known as Real Men Cook Atlanta features a host of caterers, chefs, restaurants, celebrity talent, civic and political leaders facing off with sweet and savory dishes that are pleasing to the palette. The seventh year since its name change, Family Food Fest Atlanta is held every Father’s Day and celebrates influential men both in and outside of the home.

“It’s been a great opportunity to really meet people, promote fatherhood and the idea of gathering and celebrating men who make an impact on their communities,” Family Food Fest Atlanta spokesperson Kevin Ashford said.

Along with the various tasting areas, Family Food Fest Atlanta has a health pavilion that conducts various screenings and testing for conditions that affect the Black community like diabetes and hypertension. The kids zone will include face painting, balloon art, dental screenings, caricature drawings, snacks and book readings.

Credit: In Da House Media

Credit: In Da House Media

There’s also a silent auction for attendees to bid on various items. Family Food Fest Atlanta, which is produced by Atlanta Culinary Charities, its 501c3 nonprofit arm, is about preserving family gatherings, legacy and fellowshipping around the table.

In the past, judges awarded prizes to the top food items. Now, the crowd gets to help decide on what dishes stand out to them.

“We’re there for the people who come out to support us,” said Ashford, who received top honors with his New Orleans-style bread pudding topped with bourbon and rum sauce in 2002. “What better way than to get them to provide some idea of what they like and don’t like?”

“We are excited to have produced a major Father’s Day event for 20 years and honor fathers on their big day,” Family Food Fest Atlanta founder and Atlanta Culinary Charities president Diane Larche adds. “We’ve had some amazing fathers with us over the years like the late Congressman John Lewis serving his famous BBQ chicken.”

Credit: Bita Honarvar

Credit: Bita Honarvar

Family Food Fest Atlanta is celebrating Juneteenth this weekend. All-female African drumming and dance ensemble Giwayen Mata is kicking off the festivities parade-style as a way to converge both traditions.

“We’ve always been in that mindset of celebrating our past while we nurture our future,” Ashford, the director of product development for Catered Cakes, said. “This celebration has helped to bring that to the forefront, and we’re going to make sure that everybody knows about it.”

Each year, Family Food Fest Atlanta receives an overwhelming amount of community support, especially from elected officials. Some of this year’s honorary chairs include Mayor Andre Dickens, radio personality and DJ Frank Ski, attorney Ben Crump, Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr., UPS executive Marvin Hill, Councilman Michael Julian Bond and Ambassador Andrew Young.

The Frank Ski Foundation, the first charity to ever come on-board with the annual event two decades ago, and Communities in Schools Atlanta are Family Food Fest Atlanta’s community partners this year. Georgia Tech defensive end Keion White and some of his Yellow Jackets teammates have also joined as volunteers.

“It is truly special because so many people come together to make it happen,” Ashford said. “We have a tremendous team. Diane has done a really tremendous job with the event management along with Atlanta Culinary Charities to get this process moving,”

As Family Food Fest evolves each year, the challenge is always keeping people engaged. The chef’s demo at the physical event is a way to spotlight and expose culinary talents on the main stage.

The coronavirus pandemic beginning in 2020 caused Family Food Fest Atlanta to pivot into either virtual or hybrid activities. Determined to keep things afloat, the chefs produced video content and livestreams of cooking demonstrations.

Those Zoom meetings and Facebook Lives allowed Family Food Fest to reach audiences it was never able to target before. “We had to put our thinking caps on because everything was shut down,” Ashford said.

“We wanted to make sure we could still showcase what we did. In-person activities only get those who show up from the metro Atlanta area. Virtual allows us to get people to join the feed from all over the world and find out who we are.”

Despite rebranding and a global health crisis, Family Food Fest Atlanta hasn’t lost its original goal of reaching out to underserved communities and at-risk youth in Atlanta. There are plans to return to schools and community centers for events that expose the next generation to various opportunities in the culinary arts and the necessary life skills for navigating the world.

“People from all walks of life can come out to Family Food Fest Atlanta and enjoy it,” Ashford said. “Yes, we honor and celebrate fathers, but it’s a family event. It’s been a good ride, and we’re going to continue to blow it out as best as we can and keep bringing awareness to our community.”


Family Food Fest Atlanta: A Father’s Day and Juneteenth Celebration

3-6 p.m. June 19. $25; ages 12 and younger $15. Georgia Freight Depot, 65 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Atlanta. familyfoodfest.org.