Terry Allen can’t remember a time when his family didn’t have Sunday dinner together.
The oldest of 11 children, Allen was raised by a single mother. Every Sunday his family gathered around a wooden table for dinner. If friends and neighbors joined them, they moved into the living room.
Allen remembers the mothers talking to each other every week, finding out who in their community needed extra help. Sunday dinner, Allen said, was the perfect way to make sure no one went hungry.
“It was never ‘I heard you had no food’ or ‘I heard you had no money’,” he said. “It was like ‘Oh, I overcooked.'”
Now Allen is hosting what he calls North Texas’ biggest Sunday dinner.
“Food for the Spirit”
In 2000, Allen started a Father’s Day event called City Men Cook for men to cook and honor women, young men, and the community – a tribute to the Sunday dinners he grew up with in Dallas. “Allen said.” It is food for the mind, soul, body and community. “
The event is open to everyone to attend and celebrate Father’s Day. Usually 40 to 50 men don aprons and hats and cook meals based on family recipes.
To allay concerns about the pandemic, virtual participation is possible, with this year’s event called âVital and Virtualâ.
And because Father’s Day and Juneteenth fall on the same weekend this year, City Men Cook has partnered with the African American Museum to combine the celebrations.
On Saturday, activities at the Dallas’ Fair Park Museum included meals, live music, and conversations about Juneteenth’s history. Those in attendance could also purchase tickets from City Men Cook to purchase food at partner restaurants such as Off The Bone Barbecue and Baby Back Shak.
This restaurant component, which runs until July 4, is part of City Men Cook’s campaign to support black-owned businesses and retailers that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Allen said his goal is for at least 1,700 people to buy tickets online and eat at local black-owned restaurants this weekend.
And if the story of the City Men Cook event is any indication, he knows the community will make it happen.
“A kind of our thing”
While preparing for the first City Men Cook in 2000, Allen got a call from Steve Wesley, who had questions after hearing Allen promoting the event on the radio.
âI just knew I wanted to be involved,â Wesley said.
That first event took place at Fair Park, with around 100 people in attendance and 12 to 15 men cooking, Wesley said. He attended with his son, Sean, who was 5 at the time, and cooked his specialty – chicken wings coated in house sauces.
Steve and Sean Wesley have attended City Men Cook every year since. This year, they participated virtually.
âYou see them go from a little kid to a grown man,â said Steve, of Grapevine. “And it’s special because it’s kind of our thing.”
Since he was 5 years old, Sean has been with his father at their table.
He saw his father lighting flames under plates filled with wings to keep them warm, wearing his chef’s jacket monogrammed with “Chef Wesley” in the corner.
And he saw his father’s eyes light up when people took their first bite of his food and he answered their questions about his sauces.
âHe loves food. He enjoys serving people, âsaid Sean, now 25 and living in Euless. “So just being a part of that and seeing him happy makes me happy.”
The Wesleys’ favorite weekend dessert is Jerome Harrison’s âPeach Delightâ. Harrison describes the dish as “what the peach cobbler wants to be when he grows up.” A recipe from his mother-in-law, Harrison’s dessert is similar to Cobbler, but he adds cinnamon and nutmeg and covers it with pecans.
Cooking as a single dad
Harrison attended his first City Men Cook event with his son and stepson in 2009.
Although his children no longer live with him, Harrison still drives from Houston for the event every Father’s Day.
Showing love by sharing food, said Harrison, is what he learned from his mother growing up.
He also learned it when he started cooking as a single parent.
âI couldn’t even fry a pork chop, but I learned to cook because I had to raise my son,â he said. “I didn’t want to take her to McDonald’s every day.”
The first meals he cooked for his son were Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and his mother’s Italian meatloaf.
But now, with years of practice under his belt, Harrison – along with all the men who participate in City Men Cook – are showing love through food prepared not just for their own families, but for their entire community.
Steve Wesley returns year after year to serve his specialty wings and sample Harrison’s peach delicacies.
But he’s also coming back to carry on his 22-year tradition of spending Father’s Day at City Men Cook – a tradition he hopes his son will pass on to his own children when the time comes.
âWe will continue to do this,â said Steve Wesley. “It is irreplaceable.”
To learn more
Visit www.citymencook.com to learn more about City Men Cook’s Father’s Day event and campaign to support Black-owned restaurants, caterers and online retailers.