When it comes to what should not be on the table during the holidays, Jon Gray, Lester Walker, and Pierre Serrao of the Ghetto Gastro collective have a lot of thoughts.
Serrao is staunchly against green bean casserole — and actively “curving” any offers for someone to make him one. Gray will make an exception if the green beans are fresh — and likewise, isn’t a fan of cranberry sauce from the can. As for Walker, he heavily cautions against under-brining the turkey.
“Don’t give me a piece of turkey where you haven’t put any love; you haven’t put in the time to brine that whole bird,” Walker said. “That’s really important. Brining it, taking your time, taking an additional day to put some love and some care and some brine time into that bird will go a long, long way.”
While eating well this holiday season is a big interest for the culinary collective, it’s not the only thing they’re looking forward to this year. The trio sat down with theGrio to discuss what it means for them to star in this year’s GAP holiday campaign, how they get into the holiday spirit, and advice on prioritizing wellness this holiday season.
In this year’s GAP holiday campaign, Gray, Serrao, and Walker are among celebrities posing in GAP hoodies, leather jackets, and the brand’s signature denim while discussing togetherness, which for them includes chosen family.
“For us, [joining the campaign] was a quick yes,” Gray said.
He explained that for ‘80s and ‘90s babies, the nostalgia the brand now inspires was enough of a selling point. The brand’s annual campaign also aligns with Ghetto Gastro’s longtime mission.
“For us, when we think about collaborations, it always has to be honest,” Gray said, adding that the collective often asks themselves, “Is this something that we rock with? Something that we enjoy? Something that we respect?”
The answer, in this case, was a resounding yes. Gray said the legacy of GAP campaigns through the years, which have included “brilliant photographers” and “brilliant people in front of the camera,” is not lost on the collective either.
“It was just an honor to be held in the esteem to be a part of that archive,” he said.
In GAP’s Instagram post announcing their participation in the campaign, Serrao quotes an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Ghetto Gastro is a testament to how far you can go when you go together. The recent campaign is just one of many milestones the group has reached together and with others throughout the years.
Since the collective’s inception, the trio has participated in TED Talks and traveled the world since getting their first passport stamps together roughly a decade ago. More recent milestones include spending Thanksgiving in Paris with designer Rick Owens in 2020, creating family businesses, releasing their acclaimed cookbook “Black Power Kitchen,” and launching their own food and CRUxGG appliance brands, available at Target.
“The fact that we’ve been able to take this food company from a small apartment with just an air mattress on the floor and Jon running electrical cords down the hallway to power the apartment,” said Serrao as Gray laughed. “To be on shelves in every single Target store around the country is pretty amazing.”
Serrao added, “I’ll never forget the ability that we have when we put our minds to something. The three of us have definitely been through it and back, and it feels good to be able to see the work that we’re doing.”
Serrao noted that receiving pictures and videos from his extended family with products from their brand is always touching. Even with all of their accomplishments to date, Walker said Ghetto Gastro has only just “preheated the oven,” adding that investing in his native Bronx community by buying a home in the borough recently is among his top personal triumphs.
As we get closer to the holidays, all three of the chefs noted that this time of year is ideal for reflection. Gray urges people to do whatever it takes to “bring your highest self” to their holiday celebrations. He suggested reflecting, meditating, and exercising.
“Don’t just be eating these crazy plates and not taking care of your temple,” he stressed.
Walker noted that the holidays are an optimal time to allow for vulnerability — and that it’s important to exercise not just your body but also your empathy and spirit of gratitude.
“Y’all exercise empathy, you know, because a lot of people don’t have anything,” he said. “When I was growing up, people that got money in my neighborhood, they gave things away. So, I think exercising empathy is a great way to do that. You know, there’s a lot of people that don’t have clothes on their backs and food on the table. Not even a table to eat off.”
Serrao’s advice? Considering that the holidays come at the end of the year, it’s a natural time to plan for the future. In fact, he recommends taking time to reflect as a way to “elevate” your holiday spirit.
“We want to always continue to elevate and push ourselves to be the best versions that we can be,” he explained. “So take a little time for yourself; rest, rejuvenate, meditate — and you know, never playa hate.”
Kay Wicker is a lifestyle writer for theGrio covering health, wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, and the myriad ways Black people live and enjoy their lives. She has previously created content for magazines, newspapers, and digital brands.
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