This weekend, Dreamville Festival drew a crowd of nearly 100,000 people to Raleigh, N.C. and Charlotte native Alexis Hefney was one of them — but not as a spectator.

Hefney’s Greensboro-based catering company, Ava’s Cuisine, was one of the official food vendors at the festival. Hefney says her company served 3,800 orders over the festival’s two days.

Hefney said it was a tough task, but it was worth it.

Alexis Hefney, in front of Ava’s Cuisine at Dreamville Festival 2023 (Courtesy of Alexis Hefney)

About Dreamville

Dreamville Festival, a Black-owned music festival created by Fayetteville, N.C. native, rapper J.Cole, happens each year in Raleigh, N.C. Since its inception in 2018, the Dreamville team has put together a lineup of artists in R&B, hip-hop, pop, reggae and afrobeat.

This year, the weekend festival featured performances by some huge names in music, including J. Cole himself, Usher, Drake, Burna Boy, Lil Durk, Summer Walker and many others, like Charlotte rappers Lute and Reuben Vincent.

An ‘intensive’ application process

Hefney, 29, began Ava’s Cuisine in 2020. At the time, she was a science teacher and was teaching from home during the pandemic but wanted a change. So, she “bought a food truck and went from there.”

She decided to name the company after her daughter Ava, who was one year old at the time.

Not long after, she began catering events for family and friends, and ultimately grew the company to cater weddings and corporate events.

Earlier this year, Hefney saw an advertisement about Dreamville Festival 2023. She was already familiar with the festival and its popularity, so she decided to apply as a food vendor.

Ava’s Cuisine was chosen as one of 56 food vendors at Dreamville.

Hefney told QCity Metro it was a tough selection process.

Hefney said she initially completed the application without really expecting to be chosen. Though Hefney said she’s confident her catering company has great food, she was “extremely nervous” about the application because companies from all over the country were welcome to apply.

After being selected, Hefney had to “go through permitting and paperwork” with Dreamville to ensure her company could be part of the weekend.

Then, she had to develop her menu.

Food warming at Ava’s Cuisine, Dreamville Festival 2023 (Courtesy of Alexis Hefney)

Hefney said she chose things she knew people would like. Ultimately, she decided to offer chicken and waffles, fried collard green eggrolls, shrimp and grits, salmon bits and crab rice, and her popular wings made with a “special” seasoning.

Her most popular items were the crab rice and salmon bites, and her specialty wings.

A good mood

Hefney told QCity Metro that working Dreamville was no small task. She had a team of 12 each day and the prep beforehand took several days. It felt like a difficult task at times, but with the help of countless family and friends, Hefney was able to make it happen.

“They were probably sick of me. I was getting anybody I could find [to help prepare].”

“[Dreamville] felt different than other events,” she said. She said the weekend felt more relaxed and informal than the corporate events or weddings she’s done in the past.

Everyone was in a good mood. Throughout the entire weekend, Hefney said every customer that came to their booth seemed to be having a good time.

“No one was rude, everybody was in good mood. It was a really good vibe.”

Hefney said the best parts of the experience were meeting people from all over the world who had come for the festival, seeing people’s positive reactions to her food, and “being able to listen to some of the best performers in the world while working.”

Hefney wasn’t able to see many performances because she and her team were busy serving food, but she did catch part of Drake’s set on Sunday night. “When Drake came on, I told my team to hold it down; I had to see Drake.”

Looking ahead

While Dreamville is the first festival her company has done and the largest event to date, Hefney said everything went smoothly, and she definitely plans to do it again.

She told QCity Metro her daughter Ava, now five, is vastly aware of the company named after her and of this weekend’s festival.

“[Ava] knew we were going to a festival and the restaurant sign would have her name on it.”

Hefney looks forward to the day her daughter is old enough to work for the company and can work alongside her at a future Dreamville.

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  1. Alexis Hefney is my cousin and I an so proud of her. Never saw her as a cook or entrepreneur but knew she would do great things!!! Can’t wait for my beautiful cousin and staff do my party!!