WIRED25: Ghetto Gastro Sees Food as a Weapon

 wired.com  09/16/2020 23:59:35   Jason Parham

The tenets of Ghetto Gastro are as follows: Be the catalyst. Empower the community. And vibes. For Jon Gray, one-third of the Bronx food collective, its simple: Were storytellers. We use food and experiences around food history to tell stories about culture and life.

Along with cofounders Lester Walker and Pierre Serrao, Gray spoke during the opening night of WIRED25 about the importance of food justice, changing value systems around cooking, and the future of the culinary world in underrepresented communities. The WIRED25 honoreespart of a group of change-makers across tech, entertainment, and mediawere joined by the restaurateur Gabriela Cmara, of the famed eateries Contramar (Mexico City) and Cala (San Francisco).


Informally known as the Black Power Kitchen of Tomorrow, Ghetto Gastro is a global enterprise headquartered in the Bronx, home to one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country. Its that very obstacle that fuels them to end generational cycles of diseases and use food as a weapon. Although the phrase was originally coined in the 1970s by former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz as a slogan to combat political unrest and the threat of communism, the saying has taken on a stronger relevance today.

Originally, Serrao said, food is a system thats been designed for people to be oppressed, for people to not operate at their optimum self by feeding them foods that are full of sugars and pesticides, processed foods." Many of the leading causes of death in the United States among communities of color are all things that we consume and put in our bodies, he added. By us talking about how they use food as a weapon to oppress, we use food as a weapon to arm ourselves to be ready for everything that life has to throw at us. Ultimately, Serrao suggested, we need to be conscious about the sourcing and what were consuming.

Moderator Sonia Chopra, of Bon Apptit, steered the conversation to the subject of cheap eats, a cheeky and convenient buzzword used inside the culinary world that has become a pain point for many like Cmara. Its often recklessly applied to traditional styles of cookingChinese, Indian, even soul food.

According to Cmara, this happens because our systems are rooted in the wrong place and need to shift. With Mexican food, I cant go on enough. Especially in the United States its been considered a cheap food. And it has to do with the population who consumes it, to begin with. I feel very proud to have insisted always to begin with my restaurants in Mexico, on paying what you need to pay to eat what youre going to eat. We as a restaurant industry, we are just subsidizing a lifestyle of people who want to get the cheapest version of a sophisticated experience, she said.

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