It's been 30 years since the Howard Theater in D.C. closed in 1980, but I was lucky enough to be there when the doors re-opened to spectacular fanfare last Thursday. It's a theater regarded as the blueprint for the Apollo here in Harlem, and no less applauded for the careers they helped launch. Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald, the Supremes, Duke Ellington, and Aretha Franklin; these are just some of the famous faces that graced the Howard Theater stage early in their rise to fame.
The Howard Theater reminds me so much of the Apollo for its sense of history and huge impact on the community around it. Everyone connects to the importance of the theater that first opened in 1910, and I can't emphasize what a privilege it is for the Marcus Samuelsson Group to be involved. We were asked to create dishes for the Southern-style dinners, gospel brunch and standing-room menu at the Howard and we got to experience the reception at Thursday night's all-star gala.
Listen to this line up: Bill Cosby opened the night and we were treated to performances by Chrisette Michele, Al Jarreau and Savion Glover, to name a few. Smokey Robinson honored his best friend, Motown founder Berry Gordy, and the stories they shared about their decades long friendship were priceless. And then there was the star of the show: the Howard Theater itself. If you saw photos of this historic building before the restoration, you wouldn't believe what they were able to do with it. Staying true to the history of the place, they kept the original exterior facade, the stage, some columns holding up the balcony and the size. It's a stunning interior that's rich in warm comforts with some serious state-of-the-art technology, thanks to the Blue Note Entertainment Group.
For the menu I thought of the past and future; I wanted to have items that were inspired by African-American history so you'll taste my interpretations of blackened catfish, BBQ duck breast salad, shrimp and grits, and the standing room menu even has modern hot dogs (the Marylander has crab salad on top). As for the gospel brunch? You're going to have to come by and try the fried chicken, buttermilk mashed potatoes and banana bread pudding while listening to the Harlem Gospel Choir.
There's seating for 650 in the supper-club style dining area with room for 1,100 in the standing room space. Unlike anything else in the area, the Howard Theater is all about bringing people to one venue where you can get it all-food, entertainment and connecting with your neighbors (something we aim to do at Ginny's Supper Club). To be able to be a part of a world-class building hosting world-class entertainment night after night, I'm incredibly humbled by it all.
For more photos of the food and restoration project, click through the gallery below. For more information on the Howard Theater, go to www.howardtheater.org