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Chef Bryant Terry Has Re-Shaped Vegan Soul Food History and Activism

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Photo Source: Generation Food Project


Chef Bryant Terry spent most of his childhood living and working on his grandfather's urban farm. He found it inspirational that they raised fruits and vegetables and ate them at family meals. The farm was located in Memphis Tennessee. He enjoyed the food but not the labor he had to perform.


On the farm he learned the importance of manual labor. His grandmother an excellent cook fueled his interest in cooking. He recalls that she pickled and preserved many of the vegetables they grew.


The perception that vegan diets are just for upper middle class and rich is inaccurate he says. Vegetarian diets have been a mainstay for black families for decades because the diet is economical and buying meat costly.


Where He Learned About Vegetarian Cooking


Chef Terry learned about vegetarian cooking from his family and a book called How to Eat To Live by Elijan Muhammad. Byrant Terry's work focuses on creating a sustainable food system through education and food activism. He is a vegetarian, chef, author, educator, and publisher.


Photo Source: Layers of Thought


In 2001 he started b-healthy or Build Healthy Eating and Lifestyle to Help local youth. It was a project that helped children in poor neighborhoods learn how to cook. Classes were taught after school and the project lasted 5 years. Later he received a fellowship from Soros Foundations that funded a program where he and two women educators taught cooking to poor communities around the United States.


Blacks and Their Role In Food History


In San Francisco he became Chef In Residence at the Museum of African Diaspora. He worked on programs with scholars, activists, and farmers that discussed how black men and women in food history have been erased from the narrative. His work at the museum focused on programs about food, family, health, activism, culture, and art.













Photo Source: Explore Veg


He wrote a book called Black Food that focuses on black culinary history and tells the stories of African American men and women vegetarian recipes, and food history. The book has interviews and recipes from chefs, farmers, food activists, and others. in the food industry. He talks about the vegetarian diet historically being a major part of the Afro American family diet.


In his activism and cookbooks, he encourages consumers to cook vegetarian meals for health reasons and cost. In his cookbooks he pairs recipes with hip hop, jazz, reggae, R& B and other songs or music. He has a degree in English from Xavier University in Louisiana, and an MA in History from New York University with focus on African Diaspora. He obtained a culinary education at the Natural Gourmet, and Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City.


He has published and written vegetarian cookbooks called Vegan Soul Kitchen, The Inspired Vegan, Afro Vegan, and Vegetable Kingdom. His agency Zenmi works with black, indigenous, and people of color in project using photography, videos, books, food stylists, designers, and other creative projects.


He continues to be active in changing our food system to a more sustainable and healthier one. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.



Ingredients for Vegan Run-Down Stew: Photo Source -Flicker


References


Award Winning Chef Bryant Terry Explains How He Became A Food Activist, by Hannah Twiggs, Independent, March 2022


Memphis Raised Chef Bryant Terry Cooks Up Real Roots of Soul Food, by Marisa Spyker, Southern Living, Feb. 2023


How Bryant Terry Is Decolonizing Vegan Cooking, by Vonnie Williams, Food52, February 25 2020

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