Meet the chef behind Oakland’s Black Food & Wine Experience

It wasn’t so long ago that Oakland-born chef Aminah Robinson-Briscoe, better known as Chef Mimi, had a vision for an event that would not only celebrate Black culture, food and entertainment, but would also include networking opportunities for members of Black and Indigenous communities to go into business for themselves.

Her successful catering company has allowed her to cook meals for the likes of Bay Area tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Slack, to name a few, and she decided to use her ongoing momentum to create the Black Food & Wine Experience.

This multi-day event first launched in 2016 and has since grown to include a summit that features industry experts such as Ingrid Best, known for heading Diddy’s Ciroc vodka campaign, plus a range of food purveyors and wine and spirit makers, who span the African diaspora. Attendees of this year’s event, scheduled for June 11 through June 19, will be able to listen to panel discussions, sample bites and sips from a variety of local Black-led companies, and most of all, celebrate Black culture.

Guests at the 5th annual Black Food & Wine Experience can expect a variety of sweet and savory bites over the multi-day event.

Courtesy of the Black Food & Wine Experience

“Ingrid Best just created her own wine, and she’ll be talking about the process of how to become a winemaker,” Robinson-Briscoe said. “She’s a brand ambassador for her own brand, but she’s also worked for tons of spirit and wine brands and has a really unique position in marketing.”

This year, the Black Food & Wine Experience also honors Juneteenth, a federal holiday that commemorates the end of chattel slavery in the US, and the remergence of Black Wall Street, focusing on post-pandemic strategies for hospitality professionals.

“We want people to understand that this event is really about the building community. We can’t have these conversations without having everybody buy in and be a part of it,” Robinson-Briscoe told SFGATE. “We want to make sure that people understand that this event is for you. It’s for everyone. And it’s all about celebrating Black culture.”

The Vegan Hood Chefs, a Bay Area food truck and catering company, stops to pose in front of their food at a past Black Food & Wine Experience evening.

The Vegan Hood Chefs, a Bay Area food truck and catering company, stops to pose in front of their food at a past Black Food & Wine Experience evening.

Courtesy of the Black Food & Wine Experience

New experiences this year include the Black Food & Beverage Summit, hosting Planet FWD founder and CEO Julia Collins, who is also the founder of Moonshot crackers; Sheila Hackbarth of Moet Hennessy USA; Jana Pastena of Oakland’s Chop Bar and Calavera restaurants, and more.

There’s also the Black & Asian Solidarity Dinner, featuring “Top Chef” contestants and well-known Bay Area chefs Nelson German and Tu David Phu, which kicks off the festivities starting with a seven-course meal on Saturday, June 11. While tickets for This weekend’s solidarity event is sold out, there are plenty of opportunities to soak up industry secrets and delicious food during the Food & Beverage Industry Summit on June 16, and the Grand Tasting on June 18.

“This is the first year that we’ve had four different events, as well as hosting our Instagram Live [streams],” Robinson-Briscoe said. “There’ll be people telling their stories around some of the pitfalls, pain points and successes that they’ve had in the industry, as well as networking opportunities for people to meet and greet with each other.”

Pound Bizness owners Reggie Borders and Nicole Felix offer a variety of samples of their favored pound cakes during the Black Food & Wine Experience.

Pound Bizness owners Reggie Borders and Nicole Felix offer a variety of samples of their favored pound cakes during the Black Food & Wine Experience.

Courtesy of the Black Food & Wine Experience

Additional resources such as ESO Ventures and the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce will also be present. It’s an all-encompassing affair that looks at the food industry as a whole, from chefs who own their own restaurants to wine distributors and even food bloggers who found their niche using social media.

In February 2020, Robinson-Briscoe said the event saw 1,000 attendees. This year, she expects up to 500 guests, keeping safe distances in mind for all involved. One of those past attendees is Alicia Kidd, founder of Wine Noire, a wine distributor representing Black- and women-owned companies. She has plans to open her retail shop, CoCo Noir Wine Shop & Bar, this summer in downtown Oakland.

Wine Noire's Alicia Kidd, left, will once again participate in this year's Black Food & Wine Experience.

Wine Noire’s Alicia Kidd, left, will once again participate in this year’s Black Food & Wine Experience.

Courtesy of the Black Food & Wine Experience

In 2018, Kidd attended her first Black Food & Wine Experience, and began her own entrepreneurial journey shortly after.


“When I tell you, not only do you learn about culture, it creates economic opportunities,” she said. “It’s educational, it’s fun, and you get to have food and good wine and meet people. So it’s not pretentious, you can come in as you are, it’s creating opportunities for networking because we’re the core of the hospitality community.”

As she witnessed the Black Food & Wine Experience evolve throughout the years, Robinson-Briscoe said she’d ultimately like to see the event hit other cities across the country but is always inviting people to where it all began: Oakland.

“At this event, we have so many different types of foods that represent the diaspora, as well as nontraditional California cuisine and soul food or fusion,” Robinson-Briscoe said. “I want people to be able to explore their culinary expressions. I think that Oakland is an amazing city. It’s on the food front, and it’s food forward. There’s a lot of building and opportunities here.”

The Black Food & Wine Experience is Saturday, June 11, through Sunday, June 19, in downtown Oakland at various locations. For full program details and ticket information visit Chef Mimi’s website.