50 Next - Jon Gray - Entrepreneurial Creatives
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Class of 2021

Jon Gray

Entrepreneurial Creatives

35 / New York, USA

The mixed-media storyteller empowering underprivileged communities

Jon Gray doesn’t run from the word ‘ghetto’. Born and raised in the Bronx, he says that his disruptive project – Ghetto Gastro – is about “showing you what we already know: the hood is good”. The collective, which he co-founded and of which he is now CEO, uses food as a medium to ignite conversations about race, inequity and inclusivity. But it’s about much more than food: it’s a school of thought that challenges people’s expectations and perceptions of the Bronx and helps build new narratives that empower the black and brown people in the community.

As a teenager, Jon fell in love with the great diversity of cultures that populate the district – colours, flavours and sounds reminiscent of Africa, Latin America, the Philippines, Vietnam and many more places. But he was also arrested for drug dealing, an episode that became a watershed in his life. He went on to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but knew that his love affair with the Bronx wasn’t over.

In 2012, he co-founded Ghetto Gastro with chef friends Lester Walker and Pierre Serrao. Since then, the collective has collaborated with companies including Apple, Bank of America and Cartier on a variety of projects, from dishes to sculptures, T-shirts to large-scale events. Their work spans storytelling, creative strategy, experiential activations and product development, using the Bronx’s innate creativity to turn it into a world-class art destination and to promote diverse young talent. Ghetto Gastro is also giving back to its community: in 2020, it teamed up with the non-profit Rethink Food to distribute food to seniors, people of colour, low-income families and formerly incarcerated individuals in the Bronx.

“We describe our culinary style as 'Black Power Kitchen' – a multidisciplinary approach drawing upon art, music and activism to create food as diverse and inspiring as the people and cultures in the Bronx.” – Jon Gray

Images: Kelly Marshall, Eric Chakeen

Jon Gray
  • "Jon and I share a passion for music, food culture and identity. He is true to his roots and brings the Bronx into the gastronomic discussion. He is able to cross over from art to music to fashion to food in a way that few others are able to. Most importantly, he is the spokesperson for a movement identifying the black American kitchen and how rich and diverse it is. Gastro Ghetto was founded in 2012 and since then has travelled the world cooking and poking audiences to think differently about what “American” cuisine is. This continual push or poke is just what the culinary world needs right now to get out of its comfort zone. Plus, these guys can really cook up a storm."
  • Massimo Bottura
  • Osteria Francescana

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