Ghetto Gastro Is Delivering Good Food and Social Awareness

By Gabrielle Nicole Pharms | August 4, 2022


Ghetto Gastro founders Pierro Serrao, Jon Gray and Lester Walker PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA
Ghetto Gastro founders Pierro Serrao, Jon Gray and Lester Walker PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA

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PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA
PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA

There's a degree of humility, a dash of passion and a measure of of selflessness that comes to the fore of activism. While “putting your money where your mouth is” rings true, it’s the motive that brings about lasting change. For Bronx-born trio Jon Gray, Lester Walker and Pierre Serrao of the chef collective Ghetto Gastro (@ghettogastro), empathy is best served to their community from the heart—with a side of healthy, delicious eats.

PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA
PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA

“We want to do our due diligence and change the face of what these kids in our neighborhood would consider a superhero,” Walker states. “Because in my eyes, the real superheroes wear durags and Timbs. They’re in the gardens, feeding the youth and giving them food for thought.”


PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA
PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA

Since its inception in 2012, Ghetto Gastro’s mission has always been about aiding the end of food inequity. Although raising awareness of food disparity is merely part of the solution, the group strives to make quality food more accessible to underserved areas. “The way that our communities have been structured so that there isn’t easy access for people to get things like clean, healthy foods without pesticides, but it’s very easy for them to grab a Twinkie, Twix or get a bottle of liquor, is done by design,” Serrao says. “It can be financially taxing because there isn’t access. So people will have to travel farther to access a good grocery store and put food on the table. We talk about this often, and these are holes in the system that have been created. So we want to do our duty to patch those holes in the best way that we see possible.”

Moreover, Ghetto Gastro also aims its blows at food myths spread to the Black and brown communities. “There are different cutbacks and benefits that farmers get to grow certain grains for fuel or feed for livestock. Certain lobbyists created these laws where farmers are incentivized to grow that versus fresh vegetables that might not have the longest shelf life. So we have to figure out ways to incentivize people to grow nutritious and delicious foods for the people,” Gray says. “For us, it’s about creating the desire and helping to inform folks and mitigate some of the misinformation that’s been fed to our community for generations around wellness, food, what we deserve and what tastes good. I don’t want to see young kids and offer them a salad and let them think that’s ‘white people’s food.’ This is our food.”


PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA
PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA

"WE’RE NOT OVERNIGHT ACTIVISTS. FOR US, IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT HOW DO WE GIVE BACK TO THE PEOPLE WHO GIVE SO MUCH TO US AND LOOK OUT FOR THE COMMUNITY?”

The collective not only pays it forward through education and food but also through monetary donations. Serrao adds, “We gained the trust of our community. We’re not overnight activists. For us, it’s always been about how do we give back to the people who give so much to us and look out for the community?” Baked into the Ghetto Gastro business model are various ways they help combat food insecurity, such as the give-back pledge they’ve implemented through their CRUXGG line, now available at Target and Williams Sonoma stores across the country. Ghetto Gastro donates 5% of its proceeds to nonprofits such as Sky High Farm, Isuroon, Culture Aid NOLA, Project Eats and Summaeverythang.


PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA
PHOTO BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA

As the trio reflect on their past decade, they’ve come to appreciate their undertaking goes beyond food—to inspiring people globally. “Even if you’re coming from the underclass in America, from the ghetto, there’s still a level of privilege that you have that people in other third-world nations might not have,” Gray says. “Just like hip-hop has traveled across the world, to be spit in different languages and is the voice of the streets, the voice of the oppressed, we want people to be able to take what they have, understand that there’s gold, greatness and value in that and be able to take those stories and lineage and hopefully be able to change their family’s outcomes and make some things happen.”

Photography by: PHOTOS BY JOHN MERKL/COURTESY OF WILLIAMS SONOMA