New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

18 Below curates special tasting menu to celebrate Black History Month

Renown chef Kamal Rose stepped inside 18 Below’s kitchen to whip up classic African American dishes.
Alisia Houghtaling
(Illustration by Alisia Houghtaling)

One of NYU’s most underrated dining halls, 18 Below — located at 18 Waverly Place — actively changes its menu every week, allowing students to explore authentic cuisines from an array of cultures. From Feb. 12 to Feb. 16, the menu, curated by chef Kamal Rose, was dedicated to authentic African American cuisine.

Chef Rose, who was born and raised in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, started working in the culinary arts in his senior year of high school at Tribeca Grill where he worked his way to executive chef. For Black History Month, he joined the team at 18 Below to create a delicious menu of comforting dishes.

“We chose the dishes celebrated to show the migration of cuisines, in particular those of us whose ancestors were brought to the Caribbean and the U.S. during the transatlantic slave trade,” chef Rose said. “African American cuisine connects and intertwines with many cultures. It reminds us that we belong here, and that we are proud to bring our flavors to the table any day.”

For proteins, students had the option to choose from beef suya, kedjenou, peri peri shrimp and vegan efo riro. The side dishes included brown rice, Carolina gold rice, cinnamon roasted sweet potato, mustard greens and Cajun caesar salad with a cornbread crumble.

The beef suya was delectable, with tender pieces and a perfectly meaty flavor in an array of spices and seasonings. There were good-sized pieces of vegetables in the stew such as tomatoes and onions.

The kedjenou was juicy with tons of flavor. Like the beef suya, it was comforting with the same fresh cuts of onion, tomato and green bell pepper. Both of these dishes had a stew-like consistency and are perfect for a cold, winter day.

While the peri peri shrimp was a very popular option, the vegan efo riro was a good alternative. This spinach stew dish tasted most similar to the kedjenou with a heavy set of aromatic flavors. This Nigerian stew was packed full of spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, black pepper, cayenne pepper and chickpeas for a creative, additional crunch.

While both the brown rice and Carolina gold rice mixed well with the mains, the brown rice lacked flavor and was grainy. However, the Carolina gold rice was perfectly done and had an appetizing pepper and herb flavor.

The mustard greens were chewy and bitter, and would have been balanced out with an addition of other vegetables, such as onions.

The cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes were mouthwatering with a perfect cinnamon flavor that weren’t overpowering. The potatoes themselves were cooked perfectly and were buttery rich.

The cajun caesar salad with a cornbread crumble was a creative addition. The greens were fresh, covered in an abundance of peppery caesar dressing. The cornbread crumbles were both sweet and savory, and added the perfect crispy texture to the salad.

“Since NYU is such a diverse school, it shows that NYU cares about different cultures,” CAS first-year Salena Rivera said. “It feels like I’m being represented.”

While all of these dishes communicated 18 Below’s dedication to preparing and presenting authentic African American cuisine, it is the act of enjoying them with others that truly makes the difference.

“The significance of sharing these authentic dishes with the NYU community during Black History Month is that it gives us a chance to celebrate and educate through food,” chef Rose said. “We’ve chosen to showcase dishes from West Africa and the Southern U.S. so we can show how closely tied these cuisines are. By preserving and celebrating the past and present of these cuisines, we can preserve them for the future.”

If you missed the event at 18 Below, you have one more chance to try chef Rose’s menu, on Feb. 28 at the Palladium dining hall.

Contact Isabella Bernabeo at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Alisia Houghtaling
Alisia Houghtaling, Illustration Editor
Alisia Houghtaling is a first-year in Applied Psychology in Steinhardt and one of WSN's Illustration Editors. In her freetime, you can find Alisia drawing, painting, reading, eating pasta or autopilot walking around SOHO to window shop or stare into windows and say "I want to live there." You can find her on Instagram @_alisiart_ and send Italian restaurant recommendations or ridiculous real-estate listings in the city.

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