man next to collar green
Khary Frazier of Detroit is Different. (Photo by Mark Mastropietro)

Five Detroiters will battle Thursday in the inaugural Collard Green Cook-Off, making 40 pounds each to be judged on taste, texture, smell and creativity. 

The competition aims to gather community and celebrate the cultural history of collard greens for many Black communities, and the abundance that they grow in Detroit. 

“The concept was to partner local growers and local culinary artists and have a different experience; who can make the best collard greens?,” said Khary Frazier, founder of community media group Detroit Is Different, which is hosting the event in collaboration with Build Institute. “Collards are a crop that we can grow here in our climate – you can get three yields with collard greens in Detroit.” 

The collards are being harvested from Sanctuary Farms, Oakland Avenue Urban Farms and Project Green Machine, all in Detroit. The event will take place from 4-9 p.m. Thursday at Andy Arts, 3000 Fenkell Ave. Before the cookoff there will be discussions on Black Detroiters and urban gardening featuring the founders of the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, a community fund that provides technical and financial assistance to Black Detroiters to buy land to farm on. After the cookoff, blues singers Thornetta Davis and Luther ‘Bad Man’ Keith will perform live. 

The program is free and comes with a complimentary sample of collard greens. Each chef has to make 10 pounds of their collards vegan as well. Tickets will also be available for $10 which includes corn bread, samples of the other four collard greens and a bottle of water. 

Jaquetta Lee, or “Chef Jo,” is one of the chefs participating and said she will be bringing her coconut braised collard greens to the competition. Lee offers cooking demonstrations and catering through her business, Butterfly Gardens. 

“It’s a dope idea,” Lee said of the cookoff. “Collard greens are very important and a staple in the Black community, so I thought it was cool to have a cookoff. We need whatever we can in this raggedy world, something to uplift us and be happy about.”

Lee said the most collards she’s ever cooked at once was 20 pounds, so she’s enlisting the help of her family to clean and pick the collards before she cooks them.

“A good little fun family event to have and just sit out like we used to do as kids,” she said.

Other chefs participating are Nedra Banks, Jamaal Muhammed, Jefani Edison and Lavaughn “Chef Buddah” Calhoun.

The contest will be judged by comedian Coco, Quiana “Que” Broden from Cooking with Que, Tepfirah Haanah Rushdan of Keep Growing Detroit and Brittany March of ItsfoodDetroit. Winners will be awarded gift cards and cooking equipment, according to Detroit is Different.

Ticket sale proceeds will cover the cost of hosting the event, including paying outreach coordinators: Darnetta Banks of Brilliant Detroit, Linda Kent Buchanan of Hope Village Revitalization, Orena Perry of JEADL Enterprises, and Toni McIlwain of Ravendale Community Inc. 

Typically, Frazier said he’s seen as an activist and a rebel rouser, but said it’s also important to create spaces to bring community.

“We have to show examples of peace inside of our communities, led by people in communities so that people aren’t afraid to be engaged in our community,” he said. 

For more info on the cookoff and to reserve your ticket, click here

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect a change in the event location. BridgeDetroit is an event sponsor. 

Jena is a BridgeDetroit's environmental reporter, covering everything from food and agricultural to pollution to climate change.

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