Chef Kimberly Brock Brown’s Pro Tips for Food at the Family Reunion

Call her “Madam President” and follow it with a “Yes, Chef!” Kimberly Brock Brown is the new national president of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), a 92-year-old organization that is the largest professional chefs’ organization in North America. (Some of your favorite celebrity chefs are members.) She has the distinction of being the ACF’s first African American and woman president. Chef Kimberly’s culinary road has been paved with jobs as an executive pastry chef, a professional caterer and author. If anyone knows the ins and outs of feeding a family reunion, it is Kimberly Brock Brown. 

Taking time from her busy schedule, Chef Kimberly answered questions about family reunion food and has even offered a few questions to ask yourself during the planning journey. 

Know what you are working with

If you are a part of the family reunion food committee, then you have the weight of ensuring food is available wherever the family has paid to eat. You know the venues, geographical location and the climate. You will also know if the family (you) is responsible for the food or if the venue requires that you use their caterers and approved vendors. Chef Kimberly says, “Often the menu is dictated by the venue.” She suggests that during the venue scouting experience, you consider the following:

  • Is there a kitchen? If yes, will you have access to it? If yes, is there storage for both hot and cold dishes? Will you have the ability to cook on-site? Are there extra costs to use the kitchen? 
  • What does the equipment look like? What equipment is available? Is it a true commercial kitchen or more like a home kitchen? Are there utensils, pots and pans, and service trays for hot and cold dishes? 
  • How much time will be given for the kitchen’s use? 

Where are you traveling to meet?

Chef Kimberly believes that “you should showcase the food of the city or region” to give family members something different to eat than what is available in their hometowns. “Make sure they are treated to the foods important to the host city.” 

But that was the easiest part of her advice, here are some other considerations. 

  • What’s the season? What are the seasonal foods of the region? Plan your menu around what’s available. 
  • What’s the climate like? The Chef says, “Choose and provide foods that hold up indoors and outdoors. Stay away from custard-based desserts and foods – like a prepared salad – that will wilt or go soggy in hot weather.” 

Allergy or aversion? Vegan or vegetarian? Chicken and no red meat? 

Family reunion food planners are not to be envied. They have to deal with the demands of family as well as the mental gymnastics of feeding people with true food allergies and dietary restrictions with those of the people who just do not like okra and chicken with those of the vegan and vegetarians. Chef Kimberly has a solution. 

“Create options and if you feed people buffet style, then they can choose to eat what works best for them,” she says. 

And if all else fails…

“Cater,” says the global leader of chefs working in every industry. “Isn’t the point of the reunion to spend more time with the people? Spend time with the people and add the cost of catering to the budget and the fees to attend. Let professionals serve you and your family.” 


We hope you use the tips for planning food for your family reunion and get some recipe inspiration form Argia B’s  MUMBO SAUCE here.

Planning a Family Reunion or Family Gathering? Take a Tip (or Two) from an Expert

The COVID-19 pandemic has cramped our family reunion styles in huge ways. Day-to-day time with relatives has been hampered by the dread of spread as well as social-distancing restrictions. Until the day when we are all free to convene and meet up en masse, we have consulted with a seasoned event planner with expertise in reunions, weddings and other family-oriented events for tips to assist you through the planning of in-person and virtual events. 


Plan to gather. 

Anthony Rodell, co-principal of Reid Rodell Event Planners based in Washington, D.C., believes we have little reason to stop planning our family reunions. He says, “The pandemic slowed down our physical activities and planning family gatherings, but it also inspired super creativity using technology as well as a few ‘old school’ methods.” 


Plan wisely. 

Anthony says, “Keep the health and safety of your clan as a primary focus in your planning and gathering.” Create a list of elders and infirmed relatives to distribute to family members. The point is to make individuals aware of those relatives who should have limited contact and who should be protected. He adds, “Use the list to remain in contact with people who cannot take the risk of being around others.” 


Plan creatively and with purpose. 

Over the past 18 months, Anthony has suggested that clients take advantage of time and to use it as an ally in building relationships and connections that can sometimes be missed at larger family reunions and gatherings. He has advised them to use extra time to show people you care about them and want to know them better. For example, he suggests:


  • Consider micro-events that can take place in the regions and cities, where family members reside. “Smaller gatherings with people who have been vaccinated and who will wear masks when necessary are best to avoid spreading the coronavirus.” You can videotape or stream the gathering for missing members and it takes place any time of year – indoors and outdoors. 
  • Stay in touch all year to discuss family matters and to plan for the big event when time and safety permit. Ongoing planning is a way to keep hope alive. 
  • Establish timetables and ‘committees’ to send birthday greetings, drop off desserts or have food (flowers) delivered to elderly relatives, perform routine tasks like cutting grass or home maintenance, and invent ways to celebrate holidays safely. 


Here are a few ways to stay connected:


  • Host driveway and garage gatherings for relatives new to you. Make it a potluck or catered event with buffet service and to-go plates and cups (for later). 
  • Utilize a small event venue to digitize photos. Turn it into a party. 
  • Meet at a local park to share a barbecue dinner (bring the Argia B’s MUMBO SAUCE and some line-dancing. 
  • While the weather is good, plan hiking and bicycling family events. 
  • Use a service like to host a family talent show and recital. 
  • Schedule Facetime or Zoom sessions with the elders to share and record their recollections of the past, especially the ancestors. 


“Reunions are about the people,” says Anthony. “If family members feel valued, then they can bear having to wait for larger gatherings to reconvene.” 




Celebrating the History and Heritage of the Bud Billiken Parade and Family Festival

Chicago Southsiders are ready for the return of the annual Bud Billiken Parade and Family Festival on Saturday, August 14. The Covid-19 pandemic thwarted last year’s celebration and is in-part abbreviating this year’s, but we will take it. This year is the 92nd annual parade and family festival. The theme is “Back to School, Back to Life, Back to Bud Billiken.” Produced by the Chicago Defender Charities, it is the largest Black parade in the world, and the second largest parade in the country. The 92nd anniversary will pay homage to tradition while embracing contemporary culture and talent.

The tradition of the parade and picnic began in 1929. It is the largest African-American parade in the United States of America, and the second largest parade across the board. Held annually on the second Saturday in August, the parade route travels on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive through the Bronzeville and Washington Park neighborhoods on the city’s south side. Traditionally, the route ends in Washington Park as a family festival and community picnic. 

In 1923, Robert S. Abbott, the founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, created the fictional character of Bud Billiken, which he featured in as a youth advice column in his paper. It has since grown to become a locally televised event featuring national celebrities that include politicians, entertainers and athletes. 

Myiti Sengstacke–Rice is Board President of the Chicago Defender Charities and Bud Billiken Parade Chair. Sengstacke–Rice is the great-grandniece of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, granddaughter of John Herman Henry Sengstacke, founder of the Chicago Defender Charities and daughter of the late famed photojournalist, Robert Abbott Sengstacke. 

The 2021 Bud Billiken® parade will run in conjunction with the traditional family festival in Washington Park, located next to Dyett High School. The family friendly back-to-school event will have food, activities for all ages, entertainment plus tons of giveaways for student participants. Festival activities will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. Nevertheless, a full parade is planned for 2022. ABC7 Chicago will broadcast the parade to be aired at a later date.

In a press release,  Myiti Sengstacke-Rice said, “There have been nine decades of youth empowerment and nearly a century of traditions that instill the values of education, heritage and community. After coming together for over 90 years at the Bud Billiken Parade, I am immensely grateful to have another parade.” 

We will be proudly participating in the Bud Billiken Parade this year and are so excited to be a part of this Chicago tradition. What are some of your favorite memories from the Bud Billiken Parade?

4 Chicago Black-Owned Food Brands that Join Us in Supporting the Bud Billiken Parade

When you talk about Chicago and food, we believe that you cannot talk about it without mentioning some of the best-loved family and heritage brands in the City. We support them and believe you should know more about them and support them too as they join us in celebrating the return of the 92nd Bud Billiken Day Parade. 

Mumbo Sauce History

The Parker House Sausage Company 

Parker House sausage and deli meats have been a Chicagoland staple since 1919, when Judge H. Parker, who came to Chicago from Montgomery County, Tennessee began selling his homemade sausages from the back of a horse-drawn cart. Parker House continues as a family-owned business started with one man’s dream to share his mama’s recipes and has now expanded over 100 years later to availability in grocery stores and to online shoppers

Baldwin Richardson Foods (BRF)

BRF began as Baldwin Ice Cream, an ice cream parlor started by a group of seven Black postal workers opened in Chicago in 1921 as Seven Links, the  first ice cream company owned by African Americans in the area. By the 1940s, the company expanded to seven locations and Kit Baldwin bought out his partners to become sole proprietor, changing the name to Baldwin Ice Cream. The brand would ultimately expand beyond the parlors and was sold in small grocery stores on the Southside of Chicago. In the 1960s, new owner Jolyn Robichaux brought Baldwin Ice Cream into more homes throughout the Midwest and into larger chain grocers, and opened as a vendor in O’Hare Airport. The company’s accomplishments have been many over the years, and now BRF no longer sells ice cream, but current owner Eric Johnson has helped the company grow exponentially as one of the country’s leading food distribution companies. 

Reggio’s Pizza

Southsiders know all about Reggio’s Pizza and their signature butter-crust pizza. Founded in 1972 by former postal worker John Clark and his family, the first Reggio’s was named after a fictional restaurant in the movie, “Shaft.” In 1982, the company opened a frozen pizza-processing plant at 340 West 83rd St, which continues to operate under the leadership of Shari Wilson who purchased the company in 2018. She is the first and only African-American woman in the United States to own, manufacture, and distribute a frozen pizza line. The company is still Black and family-owned with locations in Bronzeville, Chatham and three in O’Hare Airport. 

Harold’s Chicken Shack

Harold’s Chicken has become a worldwide legend thanks to famous Chicago residents who have sung the brand’s praises, literally and figuratively, in music and other works. Harold Pierce, an African-American Chicago entrepreneur born in Midway, Alabama, founded Harold’s Chicken in 1950 with his wife Hilda as H&H, which specialized in chicken feet and dumplings. A smart business operator, Harold franchised the idea out to friends and family who opened additional Harold Chicken Shacks throughout Chicago and in other states such as Indiana, Georgia, Nevada, California and Arizona. Harold’s corporation continues to be owned by a member of Harold Pierce’s family as Kristin Pierce-Herron is the current CEO. 

Like Argia B’s MUMBO® BAR-B-Q SAUCE., these four family-owned businesses have a storied past worth celebrating that includes heritage and reflects the history of the Bud Billiken Parade as a supporter of Chicago’s Black community. 











Allison Collins’s Love for Family and Legacy Equals Chicago Summer Love

Select Brands, LLC’s CEO Allison Collins has built a lifestyle around a family love that spills over to her love for Chicago, Chicagoans, and summers in The Windy City. As the daughter of business legend Argia B. Collins Sr., she cannot help but find inspiration and love where her father prospered and supported others in the communities that supported him. 


What are some of  your favorite things about Chicago summers?


There are so many things but the best place to start is Bud Billiken Day, which is like one big family reunion. Bud Billiken Day brings excitement each year to folks all across the City.  Friends, family and visitors line King Drive Boulevard jockeying  for the best spots to park their lawn chairs or for a seat on the curb. Bud Billiken is the best show in town with the marching bands swinging, the Jesse WhiteTumblers executing sky high somersaults and the drill teams twirling like there’s no tomorrow. Talented youth from every neighborhood strut their stuff making Chicago’s south side proud to celebrate the excellence and creativity that they share with us.


There are other personal favorite activities, please share. 


Chicago has amazing summer events and I tend to be drawn to the events that are heritage-oriented, family-friendly and involve home. Chicago Shakespeare in the Park offers phenomenal programming year-round but in the summers there are a wide-variety of free and affordable educational and cultural events there for the entire family.  


Chicago SummerDance in the Parks is something I don’t want to miss. For a solid hour, you can receive dance instruction that embodies the City’s diversity. There is, however, a Chicago favorite and that’s House Dance days, where people from all walks of life dance to house music. What’s Chicago without house music? 


Picnic dinners in the park with good music and dancing is a lovely way to spend time with family.


I find that the Chicago Riverwalk is one of the best ways to get to know Chicago in the summers. It is also a great place for family outings but also romantic date nights with events like Art on theMART, which lights up and showcases our beautiful downtown skyline. 


As an avid gardener I am partial to the CHICAGO FLOWER & GARDEN SHOW® that has pivoted magnificently during the COVID-19 crisis with garden and flower trucks as well as socially-distanced expos. 


Being young at heart with children means pure joy with summer trips to the zoo to not only see the animal life but also participate in educational programming and attend events. 

Riding carousels is a must-do in Chicago during summertime. There’s the restored carousel in the Lincoln Park Zoo, at the Navy Pier and others like at the Chicago Ridge Mall.


Yet, the perfect staycation involves personal time and some family time gardening and relaxing in our backyard. There’s nothing like tending to flower beds and shrubbery as well as introducing my children to growing and eating food grown with their own hands.


Our backyard retreat and some of the bounty from the garden.



Livvy’s squash – before and after.


You’re also fond of Chicago heritage brands of food. Name some favorites. 


I try to support heritage brands like my father did. Some of these vendors share similar family stories of migration to Chicago and developing strong enterprises that are family-centered. The Damron Tea Company offers a diverse portfolio of teas for consumers and businesses. Michele’s Honey Creme Syrup is a brand that deserves merit for not only making one of the most delicious syrups based on a family recipe but for being owned and operated by a Black woman. 

Tasty Delite Seasoned Coating Mix is perfect for summer fish frys and for coating up homegrown green tomatoes. Plus, it contains no GMOs and MSG. Shawn Michelle’s Ice Cream is homemade with great flavor and dietary options like their vegan menu. It is a wonderful treat for ordinary summer days and extraordinary summer feasts with family and friends. Sip & Savor Coffee Shop is the place to go to catch up with friends or go alone to savor a hot or cold coffee or tea blend with one of their signature baked goods. 


Sharing a treat with the littles at Shawn Michelle’s.


To Allison, her love for family and legacy is all about Chicago. And her support is her way of saying “thank you.”