Since 2012, Ghetto Gastro has challenged the perceived separation between art and cuisine with its multimedia work. Founded by the Bronx-born trio Jon Gray, Lester Walker and Pierre Serrao, the collective centers around the trio’s New York neighborhood. “Bronx to the world and the world to the Bronx,” says Pierre Serrao of its mission. Whether through partnering with Bronx-based restaurants to serve Black Lives Matter protestors or donating a portion of profits to Bronx-based community organizations, their common roots are Ghetto Gastro’s North Star.
The collective has since evolved with momentous force. Ghetto Gastro has partnered with a long list of notable brands, including Nike and Beats by Dre, launched a line of kitchen appliances with William Sonoma and have announced plans to inhabit Burnside—an experimental culinary and event space in Tokyo. Aside from co-creating products, Ghetto Gastro has crafted a series of experiences, creating events for celebrities such as the late Virgil Abloh, Vic Mensa and Rick Owens, and perhaps most notably collaborated with Marvel Studios to host “Taste of Wakanda” at 2018 New York Fashion Week to commemorate the hit movie Black Panther.
Given its clear brand mission and vision, Ghetto Gastro is very intentional in the partnerships it makes, and consistently looks for ways to integrate community organizations into existing brand collaborations. “We have to believe the products we put out will have a purpose past consumerism. Funneling resources to community organizations that are doing the work on the ground are the driving force behind this practice,” says Serrao. “With Beats by Dre we highlighted Sweet Freedom Farm and Herban Cura who are doing work fighting social injustice. With CRUXGG, five percent of our proceeds are donated to different organizations fighting food insecurity around the country, this is a permanent give back. It’s always about the bigger picture in our eyes. We want to do our part to make sure everybody eats.”
This summer, Ghetto Gastro introduced Gastronomical. Its certified non-GMO, vegan, and gluten free Wavy Waffle and Pancake Mix introduce purposeful ingredients like coconut and cassava flour, papaya and hibiscus, which used to nurture the people of Africa, Asia and the Americas. This choice illustrates its mission of Ghetto Gastro. “Our goal is to build our global community using food or the culinary arts as our artistic discipline,” Serrao explains. “Our country is built off of years of storytelling that is woven into different art practices disguised in practices such as paintings, music, dance and food. We could argue whether artists like Basquiat or macaroni and cheese or hip hop.are more essential to certain aspects of American history.”
Given the collective’s emphasis on disrupting the conventional, it’s no surprise that they’ve taken a non-traditional approach to food photography, as well. Traditionally characterized by professional lighting and cameras, food photography can be viewed as outdated and unattainable for some. But with its advanced camera, Ghetto Gastro relies on iPhone shots to share their creations on Instagram: “With the new Macro feature on the iPhone 13 Pro you can get this insane level of close focus on food. We don’t necessarily need to rely on advanced lighting to achieve beautiful food shots because in my eyes there is nothing better than natural sunlight when shooting food,” says Serrao. This iPhone camera advancement allows a new level of detail in shots, and in the hands of professionals like Ghetto Gastro, food photography is even more up close and personal, making an art out of capturing their art.
Aside from increasing accessibility in photography, Ghetto Gastro has made strides to fill a void of diversity within the “cooking show universe” with their Instagram series “Stease the Day.” These short, 3 minute long videos walk users through recipes ranging from mango chow to tostones, in a relaxed manner, which allows Ghetto Gastro chefs to: “not code switch and stay ourselves while presenting people with delicious and fun dishes and techniques to help enhance their Stease or style in the kitchen and life.” By uniting cuisine, fashion, art and social change under one brand identity, Ghetto Gastro is pushing the limits of what it means to be a modern brand and inviting others to explore the same multidisciplinary practices.