Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

Ujamaa: Majani Catering’s Soulful Community Connection

Bronzeville Community Garden in Southside, Chicago, IL

Bronzeville Community Garden in Southside, Chicago, IL

As fellow Kwanzaa Culinarians, we raise our forks in agreement that there’s more to food than meets the stomach. Good food solidifies bonds, starts businesses and builds community.

When we launched Majani Catering in November, Ujamaa was embraced as a collective consciousness we wanted our company to become synonymous with. During the holiday season families will gather to share stories that reference the past, present, and future. The title of ours is Cooperative Economics. What began as a leisurely walk in his neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago led to the development of a soulful vegetarian catering company that promotes sustainable green practices and promotes a community of sharing. Placing social responsibility, economic development, and civic engagement at the center of our practice may be unique for a vegetarian catering company, but we see it as a natural function of food service.

Majani's Catering's Executive Chef Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel demonstrating Gumbo

Majani's Catering's Executive Chef Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel demonstrating Gumbo

Since walking past that abandoned lot on Calumet and 51st Street, our Executive Chef Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel has been instrumental in transforming it into the Bronzeville Community Garden. In addition to physically transitioning the space into an intergenerational meeting place, Chef T, as he is affectionately called, hosted a series of cooking demonstrations. One of our most memorable ones was at our first farmer’s market of the season. In honor of having a variety of local produce at our disposal from the community’s backyard, Chef prepared his famous gumbo. Using squash, green and red okra, corn, and a variety of spices picked from the garden, he offered practical information on the benefits of a plant-based diet on the body and the environment. Many patrons hadn’t experienced Chef Tsadakeeyah’s cuisine before, and while his advice was on point and the food smelled great, the ultimate testament to the words he preached and talents he shared were in the feedback: nearly a year later, attendees still stop him to share how the cooking demonstration encouraged them to use fresh ingredients in their food, make cooking a family activity, and take ownership of their neighborhoods.

Saying the gumbo was amazing is an understatement! Chef T graciously provided the recipe for all in attendance that day, and we pass it along to you as well. Be informed, encouraged, empowered, and in touch.




Gumbo Recipe

4 bunches broccoli, trimmed to florets and blanched
1 head cauliflower, trimmed blanched
2 zucchini, cubed & roasted
2 yellow squash, cubed & roasted
2 red pepper, cubed & roasted
1 eggplant
1 lb. baby okra
2 lbs. firm tofu, cubed and pan-fried
1-cup fresh basil chopped
1/4-cup fresh garlic chopped
1 onion chopped
1-cup ww flour
1/2-cup tomato paste
2 tbsp. sea salt
6 tbsp. gumbo file
1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves removed from stem
1-cup extra virgin olive oil
Approximately 3 cups water

1. Sauté chopped onion with oil until golden brown. Add garlic and herbs to the onions. Cook for one minute.
2. Add flour and cook for three minutes.
3. Add tomato paste and stir vigorously for 2 minutes.
4. Add tofu and salt and 2 cups water. Cook for 2 minutes.
5. Add the remaining veggies, except okra. Stir till tender.
6. Add okra and gumbo file. Simmer a few more minutes until okra is tender.
7. Serve hot with rice or grilled polenta.

To learn more about Chef Tsadakeeyah and Majani Catering please visit us at, and join our family on Facebook and on Twitter @MajaniCatering.

About shelleychapman1

Do you think the green beans on your plate have anything to do with the intimacy your willing to explore in your relationship? Shelley Chapman, The Food Relationship Coach™ does. "Your approach to food is your approach to life". That’s Shelley's philosophy and she teaches how people and food collaborate and conspire to either uplift or take power away from each other. Having once been a compulsive over eater and emotional eater, Shelley learned the hard way that it's now what we eat, but how we eat that affects how we show up in life. By using her innovative coaching program: Belly Breakthroughs, speaking and facilitating workshops, Shelley has helped transform the bodies and lives of women. One client wrote, "She is the perfect blend of your favorite homegirl and the wise sage woman. My work with Shelley has opened me up to the celebration of my body and sensuality". Her latest work, Tantric Tastes: Dessert for Lovers explores the relationship between sensuality and food and is an Amazon Best Seller.

2 comments on “Ujamaa: Majani Catering’s Soulful Community Connection

  1. Makeba Dixon-Hill
    January 5, 2012

    Thanks for asking us to participate in the Kwanzaa Culinarians movement, Shelley. It’s been a real pleasure learning about others committed to good food that nourishes the body, mind + spirit. We can’t wait to serve you the next time you’re in Chicago! Peace + blessings, Makeba


  2. Pingback: Ujamaa: Caterers for Your Next Special Event « Kwanzaa Culinarians

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Learn more about Kwanzaa

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.

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