When Tunde Wey makes you a meal, he wants you to enjoy the food, of course. What is less usual is that the New Orleans-based chef also wants his diners to think about power, who has it, who does not and how to change the status quo. And now Wey has a plan for lowering Kalamazoo’s persistently high rate of black infant mortality.
Wey has become nationally known for pop-up restaurants and events that combine cuisine from his native Nigeria with discussions about inequity - such as a recent dinner where U.S. citizens were invited to meet and maybe fall in love with people from other countries.
“I wanted folks to have fun but also wanted to be serious about the reality of what it means to be an immigrant in America,” he said.
Wey was the keynote speaker at April’s Racial Equity in the Food System Summit at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. While in Kalamazoo, Wey told WMUK about the “Marriage Trumps All” dinner (he's since changed the name of the series to "Love Will Trump"), as well as another project where he invited white customers to pay more for a meal than non-white diners, highlighting their greater overall earning power.
His latest initiative, BabyZoos, is a company that he hopes will have a direct impact on death rate for African-American infants in Kalamazoo County, which is about three times that for white babies.