Regina Saunders prayed on it for two years.
"It was challenging," she says. "God, you want me to do what? Bring all these people together?"
But she answered the call and has organized the first ever Lowcountry Soul Food Expo, which will bring together soul food restaurants, caterers, and chefs for two days of samples, competitions, and fellowship.
"I just like to see people to come together in fellowship," says Saunders, who runs CRAVES Soul Food Catering with her family. "In the soul food industry, there are those who have been around for 20 to 30 years. I'd like for them to get some recognition."
The expo will occur on two separate days at the Village Hall at 1012 East Montague in North Charleston. On Wed. Dec. 1, the event begins at 11 a.m. and will put the focus on barbecue with beans and rice, chili dogs, hearty stews, and sweet potato and pecan pie. Chef Kimberly Brock Brown will host the Cast Iron Chef cooking competition among high school students, who will be challenged to create a skillet dish in one hour.
On Sun. Dec. 5, expect a full-blown soul food supper with full spreads. Saunders says that each dish on the menu has been chosen to tell the story of heritage cooking in the Lowcountry. The entry fee is $5 and will get you a sample from each vendor, but you can also purchase full plates of food.
"We have a lot of different soul food that people haven't had, or haven't heard of," says Saunders. "There's soup bunch — a lot of the black folks know what it is, but you don't see it on the soul food menus. It's got rutabaga and celery, carrots, collard greens, those are the main ingredients. It's a vegetable soup, and the rutabaga is so good and tender."
Soul Food Expo participants include Charlotte Jenkins of Gullah Cuisine, along with Buckshot's Carry Out, By Faith Soul Food, First Avenue Café, Cajun Kountry Kitchen, Hot Pots, Martha Lou's, Bertha's, Huger's, and Hannibal's Kitchen.
Live music, karaoke, and poetry will keep the crowds entertained and proceeds will benefit The African American Socio-Economic Development Inc. (AASEDI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding "the social and economic landscape of the African-American family."
Saunders is very excited about her event and hopes all of Charleston will come out and celebrate.
"There are so many other people who aren't recognized," she says. "I honor my elders, and when I told them what I wanted to do, they said they were wanting to do this for years. Everybody jumped on the board. It's been fun, and it's been good to see people coming together. It's done a lot for me spiritually and mentally."