Our dedicated series, Booked x Busy, is all about shining a light on the entrepreneurs and brands that embody Black excellence.
With chef collective Ghetto Gastro, there's no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. Add a dash of swag and consistent hustle to this supergroup of culinary enthusiasts and you have a recipe for world domination. Founded in 2012, Ghetto Gastro consists of Bronx natives Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker who have been at the forefront of serving up food with a hearty helping of Black power and social justice on the menu.
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Having catered for Hollywood's A-List, including Hillary Clinton and Diddy, Ghetto Gastro seamlessly blends music, art, design and fashion through conscious sensibilities and events that explore conversations around race, inclusion and economic empowerment. Having gone from hometown heroes to global culinary crusaders and TEDTalk speakers, it's not just their monumental success but what they do for the streets that has the most impact.
From addressing issues of food insecurity to helping frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghetto Gastro aims to also nourish the mind, body and soul of the Black community by closing the gap on inequalities.
Photography: Kelly Marshall
Their exclusive kitchen appliance line CRUXGG, a special collaboration with kitchenware brand Crux, donated 100% of its proceeds during the month of October to Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp, which aids in the effort to demand racial justice, end police brutality and defend the right to protest. From the kitchen to the closet, their private merch label uses fashion to spread messages like, "Food is a Weapon," addressing underserved areas and food apartheid. Whether it's culinary delicacies, cookware or clothes, Ghetto Gastro continues to take their mission from the Bronx to the world.
PAPER chopped it up with one-third of the Ghetto Gastro crew, Pierre Serrao, to talk about the power of using food for change, and how they leave us hungry for more.
What does it mean to be a Black-owned business, especially when the Black Lives Matter movement is getting so much attention?
First thing's first, being Black is a beautiful gift and I give thanks for that. Being a Black-owned business during these times has been good because I feel like people are finally supporting authenticity. We still have a long way to go when it comes to equality for Black men and most importantly Black women who have been disproportionately compensated across various fields of business for years.
You all are so used to being on the ground, in kitchens around the world. How has COVID-19 affected Ghetto Gastro?
We have had the time to make some changes in the way we have been conducting business. Typically, when we are flying around the world and doing events every couple of weeks it leaves little room for us to focus on the different verticals. The down time has allowed us to give back even more and in a bigger way to the community. It has also helped engage our audience in a meaningful way. The effects of COVID still plague our community and a lot of independent businesses have been hit the hard and will not survive.
You all have helped to feed protesters and bring awareness to two pandemics, COVID-19 and racial injustice, with your capsule t-shirt collection. For Ghetto Gastro what does it mean for fashion and food to live in perfect harmony?
For us, this is what it is all about right, slipping a little medicine in the Kool-Aid, or, as we like to call it, "Stealth Health." Nowadays, we want to be more connected to the brands we support and the mission at hand. Bringing awareness to racial injustice is built into the ethos of Ghetto Gastro, we're not new to this, we are true to this. Figuring out a way to bless the community with some layers of flavor and drip while at the same time giving back to the mission at hand is as harmonious as some 1950's Doo-Wop.
Being a part of a collective means that you represent a diverse set of perspectives and talents. What are the benefits of running a business with a group versus being solo?
Well for us, it's all about being strong individuals so that when formed together as a team that we shine even brighter. The diversity allows us to each focus on our own individual passions while being omnipresent. We're able to spread the work out amongst the team. Each one teaches one, and one hand washes the other over here. Teamwork makes the dream work; leave the ego at the door.
You've prepared meals for some of Hollywood's most recognizable names. Whose palette would you like to entertain that hasn't been blessed by a dish from Ghetto Gastro?
We have yet to really connect with Black Hollywood the way we would like to. Definitely manifesting some meals with Rihanna, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Barack and Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris. But at the top of the list is [fellow Bronxite] Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If anyone can make the link, we need her down with the set.
Hip hop was born in the Bronx, along with Ghetto Gastro and so many other important Black cultural movements. Being BX born-and-bred, what's next to come out The Boogie Down?
The next thing to come out of the BX are some of the best artists and visionaries who were either born or based here, from Lucia Hierro, Renell Medrano, and Tiffany Alfonseca to Jordan Casteel, Ludovic Nkoth and Patrick Alston — just to name a few.
You're preparing a meal for The Last Supper, who's on the guest list?
If it's really the Last Supper, then I'm inviting my closest friends and family.
What current food trends are you feeling? Which do you wish would simply go away?
Current food trends I'm feeling would have to be the plant-based movement. I'm all about the veggies and I'm all about Black people eating better and being more conscious about the things we put in our bodies. One trend I wish would go away is the use of sea moss because it's getting harder and harder to find now that the masses are catching on.
Who's currently on Ghetto Gastro's playlist when you're setting the tone and whipping up a meal in the kitchen?
In the kitchen, we have a diverse appreciation for music. Being in the kitchen for hours, you can't have the same sounds on repeat all day. Our playlist consists of everyone from Buddy, Burna Boy, A$AP Ferg, Roy Ayers, Angelique Kidjo, Sault and Tito Puente.
Many look up to you all and what you've been able to achieve since 2012. Where does Ghetto Gastro see itself in the next five years?
Within the next five years, we see Ghetto Gastro being more of a household name. We are really looking to become a part of people's everyday lives. When you walk in your kitchen and your closet we will be on your countertops and in your cabinets, on your television... hell we might even be in your speakers.
A Ghetto Gastro mixtape would be everything! As one part of Ghetto Gastro, how do you keep your creative juices flowing in order to continue creating culinary masterpieces in the kitchen?
The best way for me to keep creating is to continue to absorb information and certain energies that are synchronized with my thought patterns. I like to read, travel, look at art, taste food and just pick people's brains about life. I enjoy learning about what different cultures were doing in the past and I use that as inspiration to create something new.
What advice do you give upcoming chefs and culinary enthusiasts?
For upcoming chefs, put in the time at a good restaurant. No matter how good you believe you can be, challenge and surround yourself by others who are better than you. For me, that is the best way to improve. For culinary enthusiasts alike, I would say reading is key to finding your voice and having knowledge.
There is more to the food business than just cooking food, check out the book, Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun? by Reginald Lewis.
Fill in the blank: For Ghetto Gastro, our Black is...
[Our] Black is ULTRA.
Yes, shoutout to the GOAT that is Nas. Thanks to you, the world is a little more flavorful. What's next for Ghetto Gastro?
We have a lot coming up, but I signed NDAs and can't disclose too much. Just know that real big things are coming soon, so stay tuned.
Photos courtesy of Ghetto Gastro