Food has the power to bring people together and get them talking. No one understands that better than the guys who make up Ghetto Gastro, a Bronx-born culinary collective that is using food to create a movement. We sat down with co-founder Jon Gray about how he helped build a luxury lifestyle brand that is unapologetically Black.
Gray, a Bronx-native with a fashion and design background, developed the idea for Ghetto Gastro with friends and chefs Lester Walker and Pierre Serrao. The trio began combining their love of food, fashion and art to produce unique cultural experiences. The movement began organically. The group invited their network of influencers to house parties centered around healthy, high-quality food flavored with the ingredients of the ancestors. The food was thoughtfully showcased alongside music and art in a way that inspired conversations around topics like race and economic equality. But Gray says the idea was always to create something that allowed them to use food to share Black stories with larger audiences.
As the word spread, their footprint grew. And since 2012 Ghetto Gastro has partnered with well-known brands like Cartier and Nike and have appeared at pop up events at Art Basel and New York Fashion Week. But even as their popularity increased, the guys at Ghetto Gastro have maintained that they are not about code-switching. So everything about their brand, including their name, showcases the fact that they are representing the BX to the fullest. “People often have difficulty looking at things with Black roots as luxurious. So for us, that was super important,” he said. “We’re reclaiming [Ghetto] and defining it how we want to. I get a kick out of working with Cartier or The Met Museum and seeing a poster that says Ghetto Gastro.”
In the ten years since their launch, Ghetto Gastro has shown no signs of slowing down. In 2021, they rolled out a brand of pantry items, including pancake and waffle mixes made with ingredients from across the African diaspora like organic cassava flour. And they’ve recently partnered with kitchenware brand Crux to create CRUXGG small appliance items for Target and cookware for Williams Sonoma. “We come from NYC, the home of the small kitchen countertop. So we thought about being a part of someone’s home and making things that can add value and look dope,” he said. And in keeping with their mission to give back to their community, five percent of their CRUXGG proceeds go to nonprofits that work to fight food insecurity.
Looking ahead, Gray says Ghetto Gastro wants to continue building on its success and expanding its reach in the consumer packaged goods space. “We want to provide more nutritional benefits to communities like ours that have been neglected or systemically engineered to have bad food,” he says.
Gray adds that the group plans to continue to find innovative ways to show people just how delicious healthy food can be. “I don’t think that if you dropped a ton of watermelon, Swiss chard and radishes in the hood, people would run to them. So we want to create content that penetrates the psyche, that shows people what’s good for them without being preachy,” he says.
But most importantly, Gray says they want to have the resources to make positive changes at home. “Black folks have been creating value for centuries. Now it’s time for us to capture that value and reinvest it into our communities,” he said.”