When disaster rolls through, Ederique Goudia gets cooking

Valaurian Waller
Kwaku Osei-Bonsu, Detroit-based chef and founder of BlackMetroEats, sets the table for a 100-person “Taste the Diaspora” community dinner in Wallace, Louisiana, Nov. 21, 2021. Mr. Osei-Bonsu traveled to Wallace in support of his colleague and friend Ederique Goudia.
  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 5 Min. )

How do you heal a community that has been torn asunder?

That question weighed on Ederique Goudia last year as the chef watched from her residence in Detroit, as her hometown – Wallace, Louisiana – endured Hurricane Ida. She knows small towns like hers don’t often receive disaster relief quickly, while efforts concentrate on metro areas like New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Why We Wrote This

When Hurricane Ida devastated Ederique Goudia’s hometown in Louisiana, her adopted Detroit community helped her transform helplessness into hope.

But she had to do something. So she, along with the Detroit food community, sprung into action, hosting fundraisers like a a pay-what-you-can pig roast at a local craft brewery.

They raised $8,500 for Wallace residents and later organized a food-based relief trip themselves, hosting a community dinner cooked by some of Detroit’s best chefs. 

“The whole point” of the Wallace dinner, Ms. Goudia says, was to use “food in a way that breathes life into people.” It’s a mantra she and her fellow Detroit chefs hold onto today, whether they’re organizing lunches to fight food insecurity or putting on events to explore Black history through food.

Importantly, she adds, “everybody that came on the trip is now family. Not only with me, but with the residents of Wallace.”

Ederique Goudia isn’t the type who stops moving. From November through February, her life was like a hurricane’s gust, tossing her about the country between the community that raised her and the place she now calls home.

In early November, Ms. Goudia and an entourage of chefs made their way from Detroit to her childhood hometown of Wallace, Louisiana, a community of nearly 600 about 50 miles outside New Orleans that had been pummeled by Hurricane Ida’s Category 4 strength last summer. Her foodways colleagues Raphael Wright and Jermond Booze, among a host of others from their home in Detroit, rallied around her and organized a day of service for the community, followed by their group’s inaugural diaspora dinner. It was their way of showing appreciation for Wallace, as well as their dear colleague Ms. Goudia.

The day after they arrived back in Detroit, Ms. Goudia and company made a beeline back to the kitchen, where they began working alongside colleagues to prepare 50 family-sized Thanksgiving meals for their food-insecure community members. The meals were prepared through the food security group Make Food Not Waste, of which Ms. Goudia is the lead chef. 

Why We Wrote This

When Hurricane Ida devastated Ederique Goudia’s hometown in Louisiana, her adopted Detroit community helped her transform helplessness into hope.

Food relief is about more than physical sustenance for Ms. Goudia and the many chefs who volunteer alongside her. It is a rung on the ladder to stability. And it can be the glue that holds communities together. “It creates a shared song amongst people, of a reset,” says Detroit chef Kwaku Osei-Bonsu, founder of ​​BlackMetroEats and one of the volunteers who traveled to Wallace with Ms. Goudia.

So when the calendar turned to 2022, she and her colleagues donned their aprons once again for another marathon community service event, the second annual “Taste the Diaspora,” an initiative celebrating Black history through food. From late January through early February, they prepared “shoebox lunches,” community events like scavenger hunts, and special kitchen table sit-downs with the city’s foodways participants and other Black-owned businesses. 

Valaurian Waller
Chef Ederique Goudia embraces a statue commemorating the children who were enslaved on the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana.

“Whatever you need”

After Ida hit southeast Louisiana, Ms. Goudia knew she wanted to – had to – do something to help folks back home, but it wasn’t initially her idea to jump into action. It was her friends and colleagues, Mr. Wright and Mr. Booze, who collaborate alongside Ms. Goudia on “Taste the Diaspora.” They were among the first to ask how her family fared, and they were well aware that it wasn’t feasible to get to Louisiana to help right away, as disaster recovery dragged on for weeks after the storm. They then suggested hosting local pop-up fundraisers. Before long, they had gathered a group of 15 or so members of the Detroit food community interested in traveling to Wallace. 

“Whatever you need, we’re there,” Ms. Goudia remembers her colleagues telling her. But it wasn’t immediately clear how the team could help. How do you heal a community that has literally been torn asunder?

That question weighed on Ms. Goudia’s heart as she watched her hometown endure Ida – the fifth-most powerful storm ever to arrive on the mainland United States – from a distance. It sat on her conscience, because she knows small towns like hers don’t often receive disaster relief quickly while efforts concentrate on metro areas like New Orleans and Baton Rouge first. Wallace sits in the middle of a petrochemical corridor and has long struggled with environmental justice issues.

Ida made landfall on Aug. 29. As Ms. Goudia checked on her family, the Detroit food scene leaped into action. For a week in September, they hosted fundraisers every day, including a New Orleans bounce cardio workout at a gym Ms. Goudia works at – an ode to the city’s signature style of music – and a pay-what-you-can pig roast at a local craft brewery. 

In total they raised $8,500 and they distributed it to Wallace residents through the Descendants Project, an advocacy group for descendants of formerly enslaved people in Louisiana’s river parishes. Ms. Goudia’s cousins, Joy and Jo Banner, lead the group. 

By the time Ms. Goudia and her colleagues were ready to head to Wallace themselves, word had spread through the Detroit area. Soon sponsorships began rolling in: The Kresge Foundation, which expands opportunities for low-income individuals nationwide, was the first major group to chip in. Then ProsperUS Detroit, an economic development initiative, pitched in. Turning Tables NOLA caught wind of their efforts soon after and offered to help as well.  

Foodways colleague Raphael Wright describes their effort as “a labor of love.”

“The moment we found out about the hurricane, we instantly said, ‘We got to go down there,’” Mr. Wright says.

The Detroit food community’s support for Ms. Goudia and her hometown was, in some ways, as emotionally overwhelming as watching Ida hit her family. At the same time, it wasn’t surprising. It’s what Ms. Goudia has come to know as the heart of Detroit.

“The hospitality that lives in Detroit, it isn’t a one-off,” says Ms. Goudia. “It isn’t surprising at all, because there is this Southern hospitality that’s here, that’s unmatched.”

So much more than food

On the day of the Wallace dinner, as always, Ms. Goudia didn’t stop moving. She and her volunteers worked through the afternoon to prepare an evening meal of a beet-based African dish, mirliton dressing, baked spaghetti, cornbread tea cakes, and pralines.

As he leaned against a picnic table out front, opening cans of corn, Mr. Osei-Bonsu of BlackMetroEats reflected on his and others’ trip down South so far, and what he hoped the meal would mean for the community.

Healing a community’s emotional wounds through food “is definitely something that’s impactful,” Mr. Osei-Bonsu says. “Today will be about so much more than just the consumption of food. It’ll also be a dialogue.”

Excited, folks were already showing up for dinner before the table in Wallace’s local farmers market was even set. Wallace resident Darlene Percy was among the first to arrive.

Ms. Percy expressed how appreciative she and other community members were of Ms. Goudia and the volunteers’ organizing efforts over the past few months.

“A lot of times, we look at the big cities, and never the small communities” after storms, Ms. Percy says. “With [Ms. Goudia] shedding light and providing resources, I think that’s great for the community – to let everyone know that we were also impacted.”

Ms. Goudia and company consider that a success.

“That was the whole point,” Ms. Goudia says from her home in Detroit several weeks later. To use “food in a way that breathes life into people, that gives them what they didn’t think they needed at the time.” She stops and reflects for a moment. “I think we were successful in that.”

Importantly, she adds, “everybody that came on the trip is now family. Not only with me, but with the residents of Wallace. I was blessed to be able to provide that for them, and with them.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to When disaster rolls through, Ederique Goudia gets cooking
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today