The arts, culture and history not only have the ability to inspire. They also have the power to spark social change. Just ask Bryant Terry. The chef, author and educator uses artistic and cultural influences to shape his work, as both the chef-in-residence at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora and as an active voice within the community.
“In everything I do, I want to inspire people to become active. I want to ignite personal change, community engagement and civic participation,” he said.
Terry’s main cause: food justice – a movement that aims to give everyone access to healthy, affordable food. In 2002, he founded b-healthy (Build Healthy Eating and Lifestyles to Help Youth). The New York City initiative provided youth programming and cooking demonstrations to hundreds of young people throughout the city and beyond. It encouraged youth to help build a more sustainable food system.
“I want young people to be leaders in the food justice movement. And I see cooking as a powerful way to get them involved,” he said. “Teaching young people cooking can change their habits, attitudes and politics in regard to food.”
Terry’s own early lessons in food justice came from the art and music of his youth, as well as his graduate studies in history at New York University. He cites Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and the song “Beef” by Boogie Down Productions as opening his eyes to the realities of the industrialized food system. His study of the Black Panther Party’s community programs of the 1960s inspired him to think about how poverty and illness intersect with lack of access to healthy food. Even his recipes are influenced by art; namely, the collage works of artist Romare Beardon, which inspire him to meld flavors and cultural influences for his popular cookbooks.
“These works moved and motivated me. And I’m just one person,” said Terry. “If I can move one person to change the way he or she approaches food, that’s how I measure success.”
Terry believes a healthy community is one in which there are many sources for accessing healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food. But it doesn’t end there. “In a truly healthy community, the local food systems are owned and driven by the people living in the community,” he said. “We need to be clear about our roles as community members and citizens, and contribute to change.”
Bryant Terry is an award-winning chef, educator and author, renowned for his activism in creating a healthy, just and sustainable food system.
Mr. Terry is a recipient of the 2015 James Beard Foundation Leadership award. He is currently chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco; where he creates programming that celebrates the intersection of food, farming, health, activism, art, culture and the African Diaspora.
His fourth book, Afro Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed, was published in April 2014 to stellar reviews. Amazon.com named it one of the best cookbooks of 2014. It was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Literary Work and was included on several year-end lists. Mr. Terry also is the author of the critically acclaimed Vegan Soul Kitchen.
Mr. Terry’s activism has earned him numerous accolades. In 2014, the African American Studies department at UC Berkeley honored him for his commitment to community development and transformative change. In 2012, Hillary Clinton chose him as one of 80 American chefs to join the American Chef Corps. That same year, TheRoot.com included him on its list of "100 Most Influential African Americans,” and he also received recognition on TheGrio.com’s list of "100 African Americans Making History Today.”
Mr. Terry graduated from the Chef’s Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. He holds an M.A. in History from New York University and a B.A. with honors in English from Xavier University of Louisiana. Learn more at bryant-terry.com.