On Saturday, September 10, HBCU students and alumni experienced an upscale fine dining experience at the annual Conversations at the Chef’s Table event. 

Starting in 2019, Conversations at the Chef’s Table is a curated dining experience designed to bring diverse groups of people together to connect and build meaningful relationships through food. 

This year it took place at Two Lions Vineyards in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and was reserved for HBCU students and alumni. In collaboration with Capital One, participants were able to share advice, stories, and laughs at this year’s event which was described as higher learning meets fine dining. 

Creator and Founder of Conversations at the Chef’s Table, Temiyayo “Tayo” Ola

The mastermind behind this event is the Creator and Founder of Conversations at the Chef’s Table, Temiyayo “Tayo”  Ola, an experienced chef with the mission of bringing people together through food.

Ola says that it was important to him to expose HBCU students to an environment that is not always made available to them.

“Not a lot of people get this kind of opportunity to be in rooms, fine dining at that, and on a high scale,” Ola said.

“It’s about showing HBCU students that there’s so much more out there outside of what we are always exposed to. when you think about America, they always try to limit exposure for black individuals.”

– Temiyayo “Tayo” Ola

Although Ola did not attend an HBCU himself, he has long been connected to them through his sister and friends attending one. He says the highlight of dinner was seeing the HBCU pride each alumnus and student had for their university.  “Seeing it from an outsider’s perspective, seeing truthfully what their HBCU experience meant really means a lot. I think it’s a beautiful thing how we can elevate HBCUs outside the norm of what we see” Ola noted.

Bringing people together through candid and genuine conversations is what Conversations at the Chef’s Table is all about.

Ola says that he started this dinner with the intention of finding new ways to bring people together through food and also to highlight black and minority chefs. Two of these chefs include Thomas Squire, the founder and owner of Thomas Time Catering, and Chef Tommi A. Vincent, who both prepared the food for the event. Ola is using his platform to help them gain exposure and further their opportunities.

Ola has spent over twelve years building his platform in the culinary space. The self-taught chef has been featured in major programs and publications like Forbes, Black Enterprise, Good Morning America, and the Food Network. Cooking has opened doors for Ola in many aspects of his life including a position at Kenneth Cole as a content editor as well as his current role as a producer at HBO Max. 

With so many opportunities Ola’s been afforded, he’s ready to start helping others and giving back. 

“It’s very important for me to be a representation and inspire those around me because the world and society try to limit black voices and black cuisine and just black talent,” Ola said. “They try to downgrade us but it feels like it’s a calling for me to continue to strive to show that like, hey, if I could do it, let me help you do it.”