When Bronx-based culinary collective Ghetto Gastro teamed up with nonprofit Rethink Food NYC, they had one goal at first: to distribute food to seniors, people of color, low-income families, and formerly incarcerated individuals in the borough, which has more coronavirus cases than anywhere else in the city. But soon, another crisis resurfaced: police brutality, as evidenced in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among countless others. So the two organizations decided to tackle both emergencies the best way they knew how: making sure everyone had something to eat. (Because that, too, is a systemic problem connected to racial injustice: “Access to food is and has been a race issue. Undeserved areas historically exist as areas of food apartheid. We don’t use the term food deserts because that implies a natural occurrence of some sort,” Ghetto Gastro recently wrote on their website.)
Similar to the efforts by black chefs and farmers in West Philadelphia and Oakland, Ghetto Gastro and Rethink NYC recently sent food trucks to feed protesters in Domino Park, Brooklyn, and Washington Square Park. Then, they launched a t-shirt line with New Studio. Emblazoned with “Black Power Kitchen” and “Food is a Weapon,” 100 percent of the proceeds go to Rethink, Color of Change, and Summaeverythang Community Center.
Since late May, Ghetto Gastro and Rethink have made over 35,000 meals for Bronx residents in need. And they aren’t stopping: Their goal is at least 75,000. “The fare is all culturally specific and differs by neighborhood, but our goal is always to create healthy, nutritious meals that consist of vegetables, grains, and some form of protein: chicken, tofu, skirt steak, etc.,” says Rethink Food founder Matt Jozwiak. Jon Gray, co-founder of Ghetto Gastro, adds: “Food for the soul is the goal.” They’re getting help from local eateries, like beloved Bronx Oaxacan restaurant La Morada, who offered up their kitchen and staff for the initiative. (In turn, La Morada, and its employees, are receiving funds from Rethink’s restaurant relief program—ensuring the neighborhood staple can survive the economic fallout from their COVID-19 shuttering.) It has been no small feat for all involved: “The nimbleness and creativity it takes to transform a dine in-restaurant into a soup kitchen or delivery operation is intense,” says Gray.
Below, Ghetto Gastro shares chef and co-founder Pierre Serraro’s recipe for “Maroon Shrooms.” A plant-based take on jerk chicken, the name is a homage to the Jamaican Maroons: self-emancipated slaves who, during the 16th and 17th century, revolted or escaped captivity on the island and established their own free communities. “With the current movement regarding liberation of black people and the dismantling of centuries old systems designed to oppress us we want to pay homage to the OG freedom fighters,” explains Gray. “Black Lives Matter.”
To support Ghetto Gastro and Rethink Food NYC’s efforts, donate here or buy a t-shirt online.Photo: Courtesy of Ghetto GastroMaroon Shrooms with Cucumber Radish Salad and Tumeric Aioli
1 lb Oyster or Maitake Mushrooms
2 heads of Gem Lettuce
Limes for garnish
30g of coconut nectar
filtered water, to loosen
15g roasted konbu
1/2 Scotch Bonnet chili, seeds removed
15g of smoked paprika
5g of dried chipotle chillies
25g of garlic
50g of rapeseed oil
35g of black garlic
10g Allspice berries
5g of black peppercorns
25g of ginger
75g of white soy
2 Japanese pears, peeled and cored
1 Gala apple, peeled and cored
To make the mushroom marinade blitz together all the ingredients, loosen with water until you get a smooth consistency.
Rub liberally over the mushroom and allow to rest at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
55g black garlic
1 liter water
1 liter orange juice
100g red miso
Blend together garlic, black garlic, orange juice and water on high speed for 2 mins.
Add orange juice mixture to a medium/ large pot ( this will bubble up and potentially boil over if your pot is not big enough).
Mix in honey, go-chujang and miso with a whisk and stir.
Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by half until you have a beautiful glaze.
Chill and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Cucumber + Radish Salad
1 watermelon radish
Slice cucumber and radish on a mandolin and season with lime juice, olive oil and salt. Allow to rest for 10-15 mins.
150g liquid from chick peas
30g lime juice
10g turmeric powder
470g grape seed oil
Blend together all ingredients except for oil.
Once the mixture has come together, slowly stream in the oil to make a homogeneous Aioli.