When it comes to the culinary trio that form Ghetto Gastro, connectivity is the name of the game.
Created by three creative cultural enthusiasts – two of whom are trained chefs with fine dining backgrounds– Ghetto Gastro has made waves over the past decade through their cutting-edge dishes, products, and curated events rooted in celebrating and nourishing Black culture.
They possess a unique ability to transform one medium of communication into another distinct artform, all while remaining authentically true to self. We see it often in music with the music video or literature being adapted into screenplays. However, it’s not too often that we get to experience the multidimensional universe of food, told through stories and authentic narration from the lips of those who’ve been cherishing the flavors for generations.
Now the collective is venturing into podcasting with the Audible Original Podcast, “In the Cut.”
The podcast features eight episodes, each taking a deep dive into a different beloved Bronx staple from Chopped Cheese to the Hood Chinese spot to the West African influenced Puerto Rican dish, Mofongo.
The podcast also sheds light on the importance of health and wellness, through an episode exploring Sea Moss – a nutrient-dense plant containing immense health benefits with ties to the West Indies and Ireland. With each of these episodes, the collective invites experts as guests to unpack the history and cultural relevance of the dishes and concepts being highlighted, making space for new layers of meaning for the foods that already live rent-free in many of our hearts and minds.
For Jon Gray, Lester Walker, and Pierre Serrao, this move into the online, intangible space of podcasting and content creation was a transition from their background of curating tangible, in-person experiences. “With the art of food you’re touching a lot of senses, but we wanted to accept the challenge and dig into the storytelling,” Gray tells ESSENCE.
The collective began in the Bronx in 2012 by hosting events where the fantastic food worked in conjunction with the festivities. Their name eventually grew through bodega parties and a highly coveted Waffles + Models series, which allowed them to reach events like Paris Fashion Week and even host Thanksgiving for Rick Owens and Michèle Lamy back in 2016 – all under the mission of bringing the world to the Bronx, and the Bronx to the world.
While a traditional culinary group might stay tethered to the physical realm, Ghetto Gastro recognizes that they have the opportunity to “use food as a vehicle” to reach people in other ways, “especially the youth in our communities to enrich and teach the narratives of our past,” Gray says.
They make this happen through a multidisciplinary approach – namely through food, fashion, activism, art and design. Although seemingly distinct, these disciplines naturally unify with the collective as the nexus point. As Walker puts it, “Food gives us access to touch all these different elements of our lives.” Taking each and interweaving them, Ghetto Gastro creates collages of culture and community, exemplifying that Blackness is in no way a monolith, and it never has been.
Through maintaining this essence of unboundedness, the collective has been able to break through barriers since its inception, partnering with community-based brands such as Awake NY as well as larger brands like Williams-Sonoma, Beats by Dre, and Target. It doesn’t stop with product creation though, just last year they worked alongside fellow chef Wolfgang Puck to create the menu for the Oscars Governor’s Ball back in February.
These achievements over the past 10 years have been fueled by genuine creative spirits with high ambitions, however it’s the intention of empowering the community that has enabled them to stay grounded while reaching new heights. It’s clear when talking to the trio that they share a deep love for our people, and this care truly shines through when they offer something new to the world, from their recent Black Power Kitchen cookbook to “In the Cut”.
From their perspective, disregarding the community after reaching a certain level of success is a privilege that many Black people can’t afford. To the collective, this understanding entails adapting their methods of engaging with the people, taking an inherently exclusive artform such as food and tapping into the power of storytelling so that anyone with internet access can get a taste of the Ghetto Gastro experience and take it with them wherever they go.
Food has been the collective’s catalyst to open new doors and connect with worlds previously inaccessible, and they intend on taking us along this journey of cultural exploration, self-discovery, and of course incredible food.
Looking to the future, Ghetto Gastro speaks of more creations like “In the Cut” on the horizon, from online content to a culinary mixtape. It’s clear that the possibilities to further innovate for the group are truly limitless – whether it’s in the space of food or through other artforms. In the meantime, we have the insightful and sensory appealing sounds and stories from their Audible Original Podcast to hold onto while they continue cooking up new ways to push the culture forward.
You can listen to all episodes of “In the Cut,” available now on Audible here.