stephan durand haitian chef
Chef Stephan Durand served a moringa lalo over white rice, at the third annual Creole Food Festival. Photo by Sam Bojarski

The fragrance of mango salsa, cajun shrimp, and peanut sauce greeted hundreds of food festival goers as they mulled around two outdoor patios at Skinny’s Cantina on the Hudson, a restaurant in Harlem. Some danced to the beats of konpa music, reggae and soul as chefs from around the world passed around platters teeming with spicy, fried and colorful dishes from Haiti, Cuba, Senegal and more than a dozen other countries. 

“It’s worth the wait,” one attendee said as she stood in line to get one of chef Richardson’s cajun shrimp guacamole cups, wrapped in a thin, crispy shell. A musician strummed his acoustic guitar and sang hits like “My Girl,” keeping festival-goers entertained as they stood in line or milled about around high-top tables.  

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced the Creole Food Festival into a hiatus. But the event came roaring back on Aug. 8-9, drawing hundreds of patrons. Over the two-day period, organizers estimated about 900 attendees came to Harlem to enjoy the bevy of dishes.

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Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at or on Twitter @sambojarski.