One of the District’s newest dinner pop-ups asks its participants to take a chance. On Tuesday, August 13 and 20, Tunde Wey‘s “Love Will Trump” series will arrive at H Street restaurant Thamee, matching up U.S. citizens and immigrants for a blind date over a Nigerian aphrodisiac feast. The goal is to connect the two groups emotionally and—potentially—romantically.
Wey, who specializes in marrying food and performance art, hopes the dinners will help citizens both understand their role in America’s immigration policy and emotionally invest in immigrants. The chef, who now lives in New Orleans, came to the States from Nigeria. He says that the emotional support he received from friends and family was crucial in getting him through the difficult process. At Thamee, the issue runs personal as well. Jocelyn Law-Yone, the Burmese restaurant’s chef/co-owner, and Eric Wang, also a co-owner, are both immigrants.
Here’s how the dinners work: Before each event, participants will fill out a dating profile asking basic demographic information, including race, age, and income, as well as what they’re looking for in a partner. Organizers will then suggest specific matches to the immigrant participants. The price for a reservation, $75, is the cost for a couple and will be paid by the U.S. citizen. Because Wey wants the immigrants to have the privilege of choosing their partners, there will be a surplus of U.S. citizens. Unmatched Americans are invited to dine alone or with each other.
Thamee co-owner Simone Jacobson says that if patrons are open-minded, the possibilities for connection can extend beyond romance. She herself met her business partner on OkCupid. “You might meet your new best friend. You might meet your business partner. You might meet someone who can give you a professional leg-up,” she says. “You just never know who’s going to be in the room.”
Wey and Jacobson met after Jacobson heard about a project Wey ran in New Orleans highlighting racial wealth disparities. As part of his “Saartj” project, Wey suggested white customers pay a $30 price for their meal. People of color were charged $12 and allowed to collect the extra money paid by white patrons.
As for the menu for this event, Wey says that he is planning Nigerian dishes with an emphasis on both phallic and yonic foods.
If you’re looking for a partner, Jacobson says, there’s space still available. “I think there will be some surprises for people that are willing to come out and see what happens.”