Food Fighters: She once lived off the land in Louisiana. Now she helps feed hungry Detroiters – Detroit Free Press

Growing up in rural Louisiana, food was at the center of Ederique Goudia’s life from a young age. 

“My mother’s parents lived across the street from us and my grandfather had three gardens,” recalls Goudia, one of this year’s Detroit Free Press/Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Food Fighters. “He made his own sausage, his own wine, ground his own cayenne pepper. We lived off the land. I grew up with just getting food directly out of the garden. I didn’t know what it was like to go to the grocery store to buy produce until my grandfather passed away when I was 16.”

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She fondly remembers the autumnal pig harvest season, when the whole community would get involved.

“It kind of became a thing where different families in the area had different hogs, so one weekend everybody would come and help harvest this hog and then the next weekend we’d go to another family’s house to help them,” she says.

That deep sense of connection to the land, to the food that grows from it and to the community that it sustains are central to Goudia’s adult life. 

Those tenets inform all the work she now does as a chef, culinary instructor, consultant and co-founder of Taste of the Diaspora, a wildly successful Black History Month initiative that highlighted Detroit’s Black-owned restaurants and farmers while celebrating the immense impact of African foodways. 

The idea was born during a charitable event. In 2020, Goudia was tapped to become a lead chef for Make Food Not Waste, a massive undertaking to feed hungry Detroiters using food that would otherwise go to waste. Typically an event held in the fall, Make Food Not Waste kicked into high gear to feed families during the holidays. 

For Thanksgiving, Goudia’s team cooked for and fed 5,000 Detroiters. On Christmas, the team turned around and cooked for 6,000 more. 

One of the distribution points was Neighborhood Grocer, an in-development community grocery store on the city’s east side founded by Raphael Wright.

“After, when I asked him about the response, he was like, ‘It felt really good,’” Goudia says. “The community was super thankful and he said we got to do this again.”

They enlisted chef Jermond Booze as a third partner and launched the Taste of the Diaspora concept a month later to a barrage of media attention. A month’s worth of meals sold out in two days and the team was able to donate hundreds of additional meals to the food insecure.

With that kind of momentum, Taste of the Diaspora is gearing up for another initiative centered on Juneteenth.

“We definitely were not expecting it to be received this well,” Goudia says. “It’s been beautiful but also overwhelming. Not only doing it with some intention, but honoring and acknowledging our ancestors through this. It wasn’t just physically overwhelming, it’s also emotional going through this.”

Goudia points out that her hometown of Wallace, Louisiana, is best known as the home of the Whitney Plantation, which today is the only museum in the state that focuses exclusively on the lives of enslaved people.

“For me, this is just going back to my roots and taking me back to being a Southern girl from a small town in rural Lousiana,” Goudia says. “My roots are in community. We treated our neighbors and friends like family. That’s what I want to lead with and that’s what I want my restaurant to look like.”

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If all goes well and the pandemic subsides, Goudia is hopeful that by the end of the year she can finally open Gabriel Hall, a New Orleans-style creole restaurant and music venue she has been working on for the past seven years with partner Damien Gabriel. 

It has been a long and grueling process with many offshoot journeys along the way, but in 2021 the multi-hyphenated culinary professional may finally add one more title to her growing list: restaurateur.

NAME: Ederique Goudia

AGE: 39

TITLE: Co-owner, Gabriel Hall (Detroit); classroom facilitator, Detroit Food Academy; co-founder, Taste of the Diaspora; lead chef, Make Food Not Waste; owner, In the Business of Food

HAILS FROM: Wallace, Louisiana

LIVES IN: Detroit

EARLIEST FOOD MEMORY: “If you ask my mother, I’ve been cooking since I was 3. Me and my older sister would get up on Saturday mornings and we would cook our parents breakfast in bed. At 3 years old, I’m making toast and eggs and grits — of course in the microwave. The first thing I ever learned to cook was eggs scrambled in the microwave. That would be how we would surprise our parents. That was my first love of hospitality. My parents going, ‘Thank you so much; this is so great and tastes so good.’ It made us feel good for waking up early.”

FIRST RESTAURANT JOB: “I moved here for love two weeks after I graduated college. I ended up falling in love with Detroit. I did not have a job offer when I got here, but within a couple months of me being here, I got a job as a restaurant manager at Bob Evans in Warren.”

TOUGHEST CHALLENGE OF 2020: “My primary love language is physical touch. So not being able to hug people. Everything I do is really centered and rooted in community, and we were isolated because we had to be. We were all trying to literally survive. So not being able to get together and exchanging hugs and physical touch but also not sharing ideas and energies — that was the most difficult thing. We all need that energy so much, particularly in the food community.”

MOST VALUABLE LESSON LEARNED: “The power of cooperative economics. That’s really what even Taste of Diaspora is centered in: Working collaboratively and collectively. That’s really how we survive all of this.”

ANY REGRETS FROM THE PAST YEAR?: “No. Honestly. I would say I am different, definitely. I’ve grown a lot as a person. I put things into perspective more. I got a chance to really practice self-care that I tell other people to do and don’t do myself. I really was able to take stock of my entire life and figure out how I want to continue to live. What do I want my legacy to be? It was eye-opening and it was beautiful in a lot of ways. We saw a lot of humanity that we haven’t seen in a long time, so I’m really grateful.”

OUTLOOK ON THE FUTURE: “The first thing I can think about is community. So it’s going to be continuing to work with and for and alongside our community. And that is going to continue through not just Taste of Diaspora but also Gabriel Hall, In the Business of Food, Detroit Food Academy, Make Food Not Waste. At the end of the day, it’s going to be very community-focused.”