The hit Soul Food Sessions series continues to celebrate Charlotte's African-American chefs.
Credit: Soul Food Sessions

Earlier this year, Food & Wine asked whether 2018 will finally be Charlotte, North Carolina's breakout year. Well, with the first Soul Food Sessions pop up of the year officially announced for March 12, the city seems well on its way. The latest installment of the series, which was founded in 2016 to showcase the too-often overlooked African-American chefs and mixologists in the city, is an "Afrodisiac Dinner," which chef Michael Bowling tells Food & Wine will showcasean array of classic aphrodisiac ingredients to highlight the fine-dining skills of the city's black chefs, many of whom feel they've been pigeonholed.

As detailed in the Charlotte Observer last year, the inspiration to start Soul Food Sessions came when What The Fries food truck chef/owner James Barnes got fed up with how the city's many talented black chefs and mixologists lacked the visibility they deserved. He joined up with chefs Michael Bowling, Gregory Collier, Greg Williams, and pastry chef Jamie Suddoth to put together a one-off dinner that let them cut loose on a fine-dining menu that almost instantly exploded with demand.

It quickly became a series, with dinners highlighting African ingredients and styles, tomatoes and summer produce and Caribbean-inspired food. It also became an opportunity for the original team to highlight Charlotte's best talent. The upcoming Afrodisiac Dinner was originally planned for Valentine's Day, but, Bowling tells Food & Wine, they ended up pushing it to March, "gives us the opportunity to say that every month, every day should be Valentine's Day."

Chefs Anthony Denning and Robert Knight, who recently made their Soul Food Sessions debut, bring a course of Braised Pork Belly Skewer, accompanied with Seared Sticky Rice Cube, Watermelon Red Curry Purée and Watermelon Rose Glaze, while newcomer Cornelius Hodge's Dark Chocolate Cake with English Toffee Crumble, Chile Pepper Infused Ganache, Roasted Fig Ice Cream, Fig and Raspberry Compote, and Red Wine Caramel Sauceis one of two desserts. Plus, there will be more dishes from the original team of Barnes, Collier, Williams and Suddoth.

"Love is love," says Bowling, and whether it's love of food, or love of each other, "you shouldn't just celebrate it one day out of the year." Soul Food Sessions hasn't taken long to become one of the hottest culinary events in Charlotte, so if you plan on being anywhere near the city, get your tickets while you still can.