Chef and food justice activist Bryant Terry is a man with a mission: to introduce people to the rich and satisfying cuisines from the African diaspora that are often overlooked.
Terry is currently promoting his latest cookbook, “Afro-Vegan: Farm-fresh African, Caribbean and Southern Flavors Remixed.” He’ll appear at Greens Restaurant Friday as part of Book Passage’s “Cooks With Books” series.
“Afro-Vegan” is an enticing mélange of tastes and textures. Each of the 100 recipes comes with a recommended musical track – a nod to the importance of music to Terry when he writes.
Terry is passionate about making food – good food – and showing people that the payoff of cooking from scratch is worth it: “One of my goals is to bring out people’s inner chefs and help people understand it’s a journey,” he says. “It’s about making mistakes.”
The recipes are an invitation to explore: Berbere-spiced black eyed pea sliders; teff biscuits with maple-plaintain spread; and chilled watermelon soup with pickled cucumber and mint, to name a few. The book is beautifully presented, with photographs by Paige Green.
Terry imagines his readers using the book on weekends, when they aren’t rushed. He knows some will buy almond milk instead of making it, but he still wants to set the bar high.
“I don’t want to patronize my readers,” he says. “I’m assuming that people who may not be good chefs will one day be better chefs.”
Terry is passionate about food justice and spreading the message that access to fresh, affordable food is a basic human right. While he believes there is no perfect diet that fits everyone, he wants people to ask themselves what feels right to eat – mentally, spiritually and physically. Given the number of African Americans suffering from heart disease and diabetes, he says, it's crucial that people make conscious choices.
“Culturally appropriate food is an important criterion for determining what is ‘healthy,’ and people of African descent need not look any further than our own historical foodways for better well being,” he writes. “It is vital that we incorporate African and Afro-diasporic vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds and cooking techniques into our kitchens.”
Terry, 40, grew up in Memphis and now lives in Oakland with his family. He has plenty of projects in the works, having just been named artist-in-residence at Grace Cathedral.
“I love the Bay Area more than anything,” he says. “This is my spiritual home.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Greens Restaurant, Fort Mason Building A, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.
When: Noon Friday
Tickets: $115 (includes a meal inspired by the book, and a copy of the book)
Contact: (415) 927-0960