Ghetto Gastro is composed of several chefs, though it’s the guy who is not a chef who came up with the group’s name. “It came to me in a dream,” says Jon Gray, a.k.a. Fidel Gastro. He had just eaten at Abistro on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, then one of the few places around serving Senegalese fried chicken. “When I woke up, the name was there,” Gray recalls. And it has worked like a charm. “It turns people off who are supposed to be turned off, and it interests people who are into trying different things—after all, ghetto is nothing but creativity that hasn’t been stolen yet.”
Gray, 32, grew up in the Bronx, in Co-op City, down the block from Lester Walker, 37. Malcolm Livingston II, 31, lived across the borough in the Bronxdale Houses, and Pierre Serrao, 30, grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Among them, the chefs have worked at Le Cirque, Jean-Georges, Spice Market, and Noma, to name a few. In 2012, Gray and the group began hosting small dinners (“Freestyle Fridays”) that sought to rethink meals from the point of view of the collective’s origins. Then came the invitations, first from some of Gray’s old friends (in a previous life, he worked in fashion) and then from all over: Rick Owens’s Thanksgiving party; a crazy little private birthday in the Cotswolds with a menu featuring jerk chicken, fried octopus, and pineapple confit.