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West Philadelphia Chef Omar Tate Using Food To Discover Family History, Educate About Black Culture

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Many people think of food as a source of energy, but for one West Philadelphia man, it means so much more. Omar Tate's passion for cooking helped him discover his family history.

"This plate is so loaded I could take any one of those components and write a whole thesis on them," Tate said.

omar tate food
Credit: CBS3

Have you ever thought about a plate of food that not only holds the things that fill our bellies but maybe a few breadcrumbs that can connect us even deeper to our past?

"These sea island red peas, that's a direct link back to West Africa, and that it came from West Africa through the mid-Atlantic slave trade," Tate said.

For Tate, a chef and artist from West Philly, the plates of food he's been serving around the country for the past three years have been soaked in storytelling as part of his Honeysuckle pop-up dinner series with an intention to soothe an appetite for endless learning about Black culture.

"I feel like I'm in a constant conversation with the ingredients," Tate said. "A lot of Black people, those who are descendent of slaves, can only trace their history back to like their grandparents or maybe their great grandparents."

A quest that led him this past Memorial Day to learn more about his great grandfather. Tate didn't know that his grandfather was a soldier stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War.

"I was told he was a Black Panther, a political activist in South Philly," Tate said, "and they fought against police brutality. My grandfather started a community center for children and things like that, but I didn't know he did all that after he came back from Vietnam."

And if he never would have searched for more, this plate of food may have never been created and he may have never seen the photo journal made by the man Tate never met but maybe is most alike.

So around the table tonight, why not ask not only what's for dinner, but about the people behind those family recipes. You might just get a helping of history that may be more satisfying than you thought.

Watch the video above to hear more of Tate's story.

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