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At last year's Okrapalooza, chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman made a fantastic field pea salad.EXPAND
At last year's Okrapalooza, chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman made a fantastic field pea salad.
Taylor Adams

Okrapalooza Returns for 11th Year with Fewer Spots, Social Distancing and Plenty of Okra

Last year’s Okrapalooza involved a beautiful sit-down dinner at the Reeve’s Family Farm in Princeton.

This year, as annual events cancel, postpone or go virtual, Promise of Peace executive director Elizabeth Dry has figured out a way to go forward with the 11th annual Okrapalooza.

“With Okrapalooza this year, I’ve researched different places that are taking steps to implement safety protocols … everyone will be given a particular table, a home base, and that’s the only place they can take off their mask, no one else can sit at their table,” Dry says. “It’s a very scaled-back event, with very mindful approaches to serving the guests with the delicious dishes by the chefs.”

Eight masked chefs will prepare dishes involving okra — “this is not your mama’s okra,” as Dry says (though if it were my mother’s, I’d be more than happy with that).

Chefs for the September event will be Taylor McCreary (Braindead Brewing), Julien Eelsen (Whisk Crêpes Café), Diana Zamora (Harvest Project), Sukie Otsuki (Meddlesome Moth), Olivia Genthe (Fount Board and Table), Eric Spigner (Private Social Dining), Randall Braud (Basic Taco) and Zuriel Barradas (Kitchen Zus).

“I think the work [Dry] is doing, teaching kids where food comes from and how to be a good steward of our planet, is so crucial for the future of our food system and the mental and physical well-being of our next generation,” McCreary says. “Our patio just happens to be laid out perfectly for these times of physical distancing. We are going to have a smaller crowd than past Okrapaloozas for that reason, but there will still be eight chefs cooking okra and lots of awesome Braindead beer.”

Chefs will hand out dishes from a window where masked guests walk up to retrieve them. It’s also a smaller event — while last year welcomed 400 people across its events, this year tickets are limited to 50. As of the publication of this story, there are only 20 tickets left.

“I have encountered these chefs, and they have wanted to work together to support [Promise of Peace’s] mission of food equity and also maintain their quality in their restaurant, or whether they’re doing takeout or delivery, they’re all finding ways to survive,” Dry says. “I don’t think part of the shift [around coronavirus] is surrendering your standard of quality.”

And that’s her approach with this year’s Okrapalooza.

“I want this festival to be the best in protecting everyone,” Dry says. “I thought about it a long time, I don’t want to put anyone at risk. … One reason I want to do this is to show a model that you can go out and be safe.”

This is the annual fundraiser for Promise of Peace, which works to bring fresh food to neighborhoods through community gardens, cooking kits and education.

Tickets are $60 each (and tax-deductible), which includes two beers and the eight okra dishes. Children 12 and younger are free. (To receive $10 off your ticket, purchase an entree from the walk-up window of Braindead.)

Okrapalooza will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 6 at Braindead Brewing, 2625 Main St. in Deep Ellum.

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