Sheila Johnson’s “Family Reunion” Is A Celebration Of Black Joy

What do you get when you combine some of the culinary industry’s top talent with a five-star destination resort and a traditional Black folks family reunion? A true celebration of joy and magic, or as the Salamander Hotel likes to call it: The Family Reunion.

Presented by Chef and Author Kwame Onwuachi in collaboration with Sheila Johnson, the multi-day event returns for a second year from August 18-21 at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA. The event combines thought-provoking panel discussions, topical cooking demonstrations, inspiring recreational activities and daily “family” meals where attendees and celebrity participants can interact. The event’s enriching programming includes Carla Hall, Rodney Scott, Nina Compton, Gregory Gourdet, Mashama Bailey, Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Pierre Thiam and several surprise guests.

Last year’s inaugural event was lauded by guests and talent for its energetic and unique approach. After all, when Dave Chappelle makes a surprise appearance, you know there’s something special there. “The Family Reunion was created to celebrate Black and Brown contributions to the food industry,” said Onwuachi. A contestant on “Top Chef,” he was named Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. He is the author of the book, Notes From a Young Black Chef.

In case you need a few reasons to add the Family Reunion to your bucket-list for this year, or the future, here are a few.


The mission of The Family Reunion is to nurture, develop and celebrate racial and ethnic diversity within the next generation of hospitality professionals. The event takes place at Johnson’s property located just one hour from Washington, D.C.  Experiences take place throughout the Salamander property, including its Culinary Garden and Library. There are also two outdoor Grand Stage venues hosting a rotating lineup of presentations and panel discussions.

The Family Reunion will also help create a mentorship and scholarship program to foster diversity in the hospitality industry.

It’s for us, by us.

The only Black woman to wholly own a Forbes Five-Star resort, Sheila Johnson opened the doors to the Salamander Resort & Spa in August 2013, and has since received worldwide plaudits, as well as become a community gathering point and executive retreat for Washington, D.C. residents. 

“Last year’s event was an emotional celebration for all involved, and we will continue to inspire inclusivity and equality within the hospitality and culinary industries,” said Johnson, who is also renowned for co-founding Black Entertainment Television. 

The backdrop.

Located on 340 picturesque acres in the storied village of Middleburg – the heart of Virginia’s famed horse and wine country – the resort is designed to blend into the surrounding rolling countryside, the 168-room Salamander Resort & Spa draws its architectural inspiration from Johnson’s nearby farm. It offers a series of immersive experiences unique to the area, including Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill, a Cooking Studio and Culinary Garden, a tranquil outdoor spa courtyard with an infinity pool, a tree-top zip line tour, and a 22-stall equestrian center with riding arena.

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