2022 EBONY Power 100 Community Crusade awardees Ghetto Gastro, the culinary collective from the Bronx founded by Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker, has lived at the intersection of food, fashion, activism and design for more than a decade, and the outcome has been oh-so tasty. Now the trio has put their deliciousness in print form with Black Power Kitchen, their first cookbook.
Co-written by James Beard Award-winning writer Osayi Endolyn and filled with vivid artwork and design, Black Power Kitchen is a powerful guide for food and conversation, filled with influential voices and flavorful recipes.
EBONY caught up with the culinary activists to find out what’s inside the mouth-watering pages of their book, and how they feel about their EBONY Power 100 nod this year.
EBONY: You’re currently on tour with Black Power Kitchen, your first cookbook. What’s the book about?
Pierre Serrao: The book itself is a manifesto—a manifesto to the Bronx, our ancestors and our future community. It's a compilation of amazing storytelling. We were able to work with a lot of our friends to create a visual masterpiece. We have over 75 contributions from different artists.
How has the tour been?
Lester Walker: There's been joy, and we're enjoying the fruits of our labor. It’s been an opportunity for us to engage with people who are following our movement and are being fed and nourished with experiences, words and recipes. Overall, it's really given us an opportunity to be proud of who we are and what we've done, and a chance to represent the Bronx.
Jon Gray: We launched the tour with a conversation at The Met Fifth Avenue with Dr. Jessica B. Harris, who blessed us with our Black Power Kitchen forward. We had an amazing party at the museum’s The Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian wing. We took the temple back to Africa that night. Seeing folks electric sliding in the temple, we were paying homage and launching this thing in the right way. From there, we went to Stony Art Banks in Chicago, the home of [EBONY founder] Johnson Publishing. We went to San Francisco and linked up with Emory Douglas, the Minister of Culture of the Black Panther Party, and had a conversation at the San Francisco MOMA. We then brought it down to L.A. to the California African American Museum and had a beautiful conversation there. It has been an abundance of joy, happiness and vibes.
Ghetto Gastro has been around for a decade. How do you define the legacy that you’ve been creating over the past ten years?
Serrao: I would define legacy as the impact and mark that you're able to leave. Nipsey Hussle said that the biggest act is to aspire to inspire. We just want to be a catalyst for the next great thinkers and for people to understand that in order for you to be it, you have to see it. We were heavily inspired by the Black Panther Party. We're not reinventing the wheel, we're just people using our ancestral knowledge and information and applying them to our daily movements. We're hoping that message reverberates for our people for years to come.
Gray: When we think about the Panthers, we're thinking about Black liberation and Black freedom. The Panthers started a free breakfast program in Oakland, California; it was a cornerstone. They were about nourishing the youth and our future and making sure everybody had what they needed to operate at an efficient level of excellence. So that's our inspiration, taking what we have, creating new things and making beautiful things with what's available.
EBONY's new tagline is “Moving Black Forward.” What does that mean to you?
Gray: Black people globally have been creating value that others have been extracting forever. As we move Black culture forward, it's about having an infrastructure in place for us to capture the value that we create and to uplift our communities in the form of mutual aid and inspiration. Oftentimes, the highest act of God must be inspired because it's hard to be what you can't see. If we're able to show the boundless possibilities, there is no limit. That's going to bring the youth that fire we need to honor our ancestors.
Serrao: We also want to highlight Black joy and show how much resilience we have as a people and the immense talent and beauty in our community. It’s really just about working lockstep with one another, to continue to support each other and lift each other up in any way that we can to recycle the dollars in our community and encourage economic empowerment.
How do you define success?
Walker: When we first started, there was a big question of what we consider to be successful. Growing up in the Bronx, I thought it was my people coming with nice cars and houses, flashy jewelry and things of that nature. But that's just material stuff. Now I would say the definition of success is making the next group of entrepreneurs successful and helping them grow. We like to say community builds immunity and we become immune to failure. We feed, teach and nourish each other—mind, body and soul. We're not just food but knowledge, and knowledge itself brings awareness.
You just attended the 2022 EBONY Power 100 Gala. How did you feel when you learned you were being honored?
Walker: Man, it felt amazing. I feel like the hard work that we've been putting in and our dedication to giving back to our community has been paying off. And we're recognized by this reputable publication. That’s good and so fulfilling.
Gray: It's amazing. When you think about Black media and being Black in America, it’s EBONY and JET magazines. I was growing up and seeing my mother with those magazines at the salon. It's huge to be recognized by people and luminaries in the field of journalism that focuses on Black voices.
Serrao: We're still celebrating. This is something that we're going to cherish and remember forever. We grew up with this magazine. It was such a staple in our home. I know our mothers and families are proud.