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Africa House Conference: People, Food & Globalization: Perspectives on the Production, Trade and Consumption of Food in Africa & Beyond

Free & Public Event

NYU Africa House presented a conference titled, “People, Food & Globalization: Perspectives on the Production, Trade and Consumption of Food in Africa & Beyond.” This conference, free and open to the public, welcomed academics, students, and other interested members of the community. The event began with a panel discussion featuring: Dr. Marco Polo Hernandez-Cuevas, Professor of Spanish and Afro-Hispanic Studies, North Carolina Central University, culinary arts chef, poet; Dr. Jessica Harris, culinary historian, author, lecturer; Dr. Yaw Nyarko, Professor of Economics, New York University, director, Africa House, co-director, Development Research Institute. The unique backgrounds and expertise of the panel participants led to a fascinating and informative discussion. Following the panel, guests were able to enjoy a food and wine reception featuring a selection of African delicacies prepared by acclaimed Senegalese chef and author Pierre Thiam.


Dr.  Marco Polo Hernandez-Cuevas

Prof. of Spanish and Afro-Hispanic Studies, North Carolina Central University

Dr. Marco Polo Hernandez Cuevas is a culinary arts chef, gastronome, published scholar and poet. Among others, he has worked with the African gastronomy endowments to the Americas and beyond.  He holds a Ph.D. in Italian and Hispanic Studies with an Africana/ Afro-Mexican focus from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada; a M.A. in Spanish/Latin American and Peninsular Literatures with a focus on medical language interpreting and translating; and a B.A. in General Studies with a Spanish Languages and Literatures concentration from Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.  “Chef Marco,” as Dr. Hernandez prefers to be called while wearing the culinary arts and gastronomy “hat,” began his food and food handling training at the age of six (fifty years ago in Mexico City, Mexico) making fresh fruit smoothies at Super Cocina Cuauhtemoc, a family-owned middle class Criollofood restaurant owned by his aunt Doña Margarita Hernández Pérez. With her —through seasonal work, during school vacation—Chef Marco began to learn how to purchase, handle, store, and prepare mainly fresh food, as well as food presentation and service in various settings including traditional restaurant, industrial-cafeteria and street vending.  By the time he was twelve, he was making from scratch up to three hundred “empanadas” (fried turnovers), and their stuffing, a day on the weekend in his family restaurant Super Cocina Veracruz in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, he worked there until the end of the 1960s. Another field school where he “learned by doing” was Denny’s Restaurant -Mexico City for whom he worked, in addition to going to school, as janitor and busboy before coming to the USA in 1970. In the United States, he has worked in hotels, country clubs; in ethnic restaurants —Jewish, Italian, Americana (steak, breakfast, and hamburger houses, all over the US, etc.), and Mexican.  He received gastronomy training in the Army Cooking School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. While in the US Service in Heidelberg, West Germany, he was assigned to USAREUR General’s Mess, for the Commander in Chief of the Army-Europe General George C. Blanchard. He worked under Caribbean (Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands) sergeant chefs. In the early nineties, Chef Marco worked Food Services of Mexico where he organized major food service fairs and trained the sales force. Chef Marco is an advocate of the “going green back to earth” philosophy. With his scholarly and creative works, he has contributed to the development and publication of the culinary arts and gastronomy theory (ethno historical cultural) with an emphasis on Africana Studies that inform, in part, his teachings.

Dr. Jessica Harris,

Jessica B. Harris is the author of eleven cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora: Hot Stuff: A Cookbook in Praise of the Piquant, Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking, Sky Juice and Flying Fish Traditional Caribbean Cooking, Tasting Brazil: Regional Recipes and Reminiscences, The Welcome Table: African American Heritage Cooking, A Kwanzaa Keepsake, The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent Beyond Gumbo: Creole Fusion Food from the Atlantic Rim, On the Side, The Martha’s Vineyard Table , and Rum Drinks: 50 Caribbean Cocktails from Mojito to Rum Daisy. She is currently working on a narrative history of African Americans and food tentatively entitled High on the Hog to be published by Bloomsbury in 2011.

A culinary historian, she has lectured on African-American foodways at The Museum of Natural History in New York City, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, as well as at numerous institutions throughout the United States and abroad.

Professor Yaw Nyarko, Department of Economics, NYU

Yaw Nyarko, a native of Ghana, is a Professor of Economics at New York University (NYU) and the founding Director of NYU’s Africa House.  He is also the co-Director of the Development Research Institute, the 2009 winner of the BBVA Frontiers in Knowledge Award on Economic Development Cooperation.   His research interests are in the area of Economic Development and Theoretical Economics. He has worked on models of human capital as engines of economic growth, as well as on the Brain Drain and skills acquisition in the growth process, and is currently engaged in research on Technology and Economic Development.

He is the author of many published research papers and is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, and has served as Editor/Associate Editor on a number of academic economics journals.  He has also served as a consultant to many organizations including the World Bank, the United Nations, and the Social Science Research Council. He is the immediate past Vice Provost of New York University with a portfolio which included the oversight and establishment of campuses of NYU in Africa around the world.  Yaw Nyarko received a B.A. the University of Ghana, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Cornell University.