On July 13, HBK Incubates hosted our second public event (our first featured Jeni Britton Bauer on food safety). Three alumni of the program gathered to discuss the intersection of food and television.
The panel was moderated by Gail Simmons (Top Chef Judge, Food & Wine Special Projects Director, and five-year Hot Bread Kitchen boardmember), and featured Kwame Onwuachi of The Shaw Bijou (HBK Incubates grad 2012), Jomaree Pinkard of Hella Company (HBK Incubates grad 2014) and Chelsea Briganti of Loliware (HBK Incubates grad 2014). They spoke about the ways in which major media appearances accelerated their careers and businesses – for Kwame, as a contestant on Season 13 of Top Chef, for Jomaree, in an appearance on an American Express OPEN commercial, and for Chelsea, as a winner on Shark Tank.
The spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that we experience day to day at HBK Incubates was echoed by our program graduates in their discussion of how the program prepared them for the successes and failures ahead.
Kwame was touched by the relationships he built: one of his best friends, Hiyaw Gebreyohannes, who he met on his first day at HBK Incubates, was in the audience. Hiyaw, who now runs his business Taste of Ethiopia out of DC, is a support for Kwame as he gears up for the launch of his DC restaurant. Kwame’s Top Chef appearance has allowed him to build an audience and momentum around his new restaurant, but, he said, “I wouldn’t be here without Hot Bread Kitchen. It was my platform.”
Jomaree indicated that Hot Bread Kitchen’s willingness to share best practices and hospitality made him feel at home as an entrepreneur. Chelsea touched on the feeling of community: “What kept us going was having a place to make our product that felt legit. Knowing that I’m trucking my granny cart through Harlem at 6am and other entrepreneurs are too — that camaraderie, knowing that others are struggling too — that was my community.”
For more from the panel, watch our video on Facebook Live and this clip below: