The chefs behind cooking collective Ghetto Gastro — Jon Gray, Lester Walker, Malcolm Livingston II, and Pierre Serrao — are rethinking everything about the art of catering. Instead of serving a basic chicken piccata, their menus include plant-focused recipes with names like “chopped stease” (a play on chopped cheese) and “36 Brix vegan gelato.” But they serve more than just good food and great style.
“We create vibes. What we do, we call it social sculpture,” Gray said. “It operates at the intersection of design, art, social activism, community empowerment.” When they’re not in the Bronx, they’re traveling the world to develop recipes or cooking for celebrities ranging from Virgil Abloh to Martha Stewart. We spoke with them about wolves, breakfast smoothies, and the benefits of fasting.
What’s your favorite holiday?
Jon Gray: Kwanzaa, Black History Month, MLK Day.
Lester Walker: Easter, or any time you have to fast. I really think fasting is significant. Giving up something for a cause gives you a lot of character. I respect that.
Malcolm Livington II: Christmas. It’s the only time I get together with my immediate family.
Pierre Serrao: Christmas, just because it’s guaranteed to be chill.
If you could spend three months anywhere, where would it be?
LW: Africa. I’d go all around Africa. I’d like to touch everywhere that the transatlantic slave trade touched and see where our roots have been laid.
ML: Asia, especially Japan.
PS: Africa as well. I’d like to see Mozambique, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal — I just want to see everywhere.
JG: Africa. I’d start in the Gold Coast, going to Benin, go to Ghana, Lagos, definitely want to hit Cape Verde, maybe climb Kilimanjaro, hit Kenya, hit Zanzibar and Swahililand because the flavors are really interesting there.
If you could have a superpower, which would it be?
JG: Language. Being able to read, write, speak, and understand any language.
PW: Mine would be to be in multiple places at one time. I’d be moving around like Dr. Strange.
ML: Time travel.
LW: Super speed, so I could do a lot of things at once.
What’s the best album ever made?
ML: Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. I resonate with Kendrick Lamar, he’s kind of quiet but he’s a machine gun on the mic. I like to think of myself like that, as a cook.
JG: Stevie Wonder’s Inner Vision, Marvin Gaye’s I Want You, and Common’s Like Water for Chocolate.
PS: Pon Di Gaza 2.0 by Vybz Kartel is the baddest album of all time. It’s a two-sided album and it has something like 60 songs on it.
LW: Lil Baby’s Street Gossip.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
JG: Last time I did karaoke I was in Japan and Biggie’s “Hypnotize” came on and that was a good one. Also made me realize how difficult it is to rap and maintain your breath.
PS: “Bosses Don’t Speak” by Quality Control.
ML: “Mercy” by Kanye West. It’s my jam.
LW: Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Me.”
If you could talk to animals, which animals would you want to talk to?
Jon, Pierre, Malcolm in unison: Wolves.
JG: And black panthers. Not even all panthers, just the black ones.
LW: I just want to be able to talk to all the ferocious animals. Let’s have a meeting.
What fictional character would you love to hang out with?
JG: Kenny Powers, Don Draper, Larry David, and Walter White. Larry David is real, but his character in Curb Your Enthusiasm is a fictional personification of him.
LW: Professor X from X-Men.
PS: Denzel’s character from The Equalizer.
Jeans or sweats?
PS: Rick [Owens].
JG: Rick. Gray Rick sweats.
What was the last website you looked at?
PS: Gmail. Oh actually www.ghettogastro.com. We’re making a new website.
ML: I’ve been looking at a lot of Albanian history on Wikipedia.
LW: New York Times.
If you could wear one designer for the rest of your life, who would it be?
PS: It’s unanimous: Rick Owens.
JG: What I like about Rick is that you can just pull it out of your closet and piecemeal it and it’ll work out. It’s not like advertising how much money you spent. You can just blend in.
What do you eat for breakfast?
JG: I order one shake and one green juice to be delivered to my crib on the way home from the gym. I get a protein shake with coconut milk, peanut butter, and bananas. And then I do a beet, pineapple, and ginger juice.
ML: A green smoothie that I make with kale, bananas, spinach, string beans, Irish moss, oat milk, and ice in it.
PS: After the gym, my breakfast is a sweet potato smoothie with banana, coconut, and cashew butter.
LW: Toast, peanut butter, banana, avocado, maybe some chia seeds.
If you could only eat three things for the rest of your life, what would they be?
LW: Plants, almonds, and fruits.
JG: Chopped stease, blossom patties, and 36 Brix vegan gelato.
ML: Pasta, my green smoothie, and the 36 Brix gelato.
PS: I’m with the pasta for sure, and just whatever’s on the table. I eat anything.
If you were a color, what would you be?
LW: Iridescent or gold.
Pierre wears an Hermès coat with his own clothes, Jon wears Rick Owens, Lester wears a Gucci vest with his own clothes, and Malcolm wears a Dior Homme suit with David Yurman chains. All are wearing Audemars Piguet watches.