Entrepreneurs

Nikoa Evans-Hendricks Talks Amplifying Culture, Community & Cuisine Through Harlem Restaurant Week

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Meet Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, the executive producer behind culinary to cultural live events across the country and co-owner of Sexy Taco.

Evans-Hendricks lends her expertise to culture and cuisine-focused events like Harlem Restaurant Week and the upcoming Harlem Cultural Festival inspired by the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning documentary Summer of Soul. As an Executive Producer of tv, film and experiential programming, Nikoa aims to support projects that celebrate the cultural legacies and experiences of diverse communities.

Speaking exclusively with BLACK ENTERPRISE, Nikoa shared her professional background and how it helped shape her current work in culinary events.

I studied Economics at Stanford University undergrad and received my MBA in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Northwestern/Kellogg Business School,” she said. “These studies provided a foundation for how to create strategic marketing campaigns/activations that integrate economic development strategies to drive growth and sustainability for Harlem small businesses.”

“Harlem Restaurant Week was created in 2010 in response to the lack of inclusion of restaurants above 96th Street in NYC Restaurant Week.”

“By not prioritizing the inclusion of the hospitality community in Harlem and Upper Manhattan, the resulting exclusion indirectly suggested that restaurants and chefs in these communities were not comparable in quality to restaurants downtown.”

“We recognized that the only way we could illustrate to the culinary world that Harlem/Uptown’s dining scene offered world-class food, chefs and experiences was to create a campaign specifically to showcase our community. I executive produced the first Harlem Restaurant Week in Spring 2010 during the economic recession and featured only 10-12 restaurants in Central Harlem and included a cross-promotion with Harlem retail businesses.”

“Over the years, participation in the program grew as Upper Manhattan’s hospitality industry developed. I’m proud to say that Harlem Restaurant Week is now produced twice a year in the Spring and Fall and features over 80 restaurants throughout Upper Manhattan as the only neighborhood-specific restaurant week program produced in NYC.”

Through the Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC), Nikoa and her co-founders Musa Jackson and Yvonne McNair will get a chance to reimagine the infamous 1969 Summer of Soul festival.

The new event is dedicated to “presenting world-class programming that celebrates and preserves the cultural contributions of the black Diaspora in music, media, art, fashion and entertainment,” Nikoa shared.

“HFC seeks to reclaim Harlem’s legacy as a premier destination for Live Cultural and Music entertainment; while creating an ecosystem to foster health and economic prosperity for Harlem’s diverse communities, artists and entrepreneurs.”

The reimagined festival will deliver a series of live entertainment, social impact and economic development programming during the first annual celebration which launched in Spring 2022. A multi-day outdoor music festival will follow in Summer 2023.

Programming throughout the year will include influencer dinners, moderated discussions and film screenings and indoor and outdoor music concerts featuring performances by legacy and contemporary national and local artists from Soul, Gospel, Rhythm and Blues, Hip Hop, Jazz, Reggae, Latin music genres, all celebrating the diverse music and cultural contributions of the Diaspora.

HFC Marketplace will accompany the concert series with curated food and an artisanal fair featuring Harlem-based businesses.





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