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Feb 29, 2012
Historically, African Americans have had to deal with many stereotypes. For chef, author, and food justice activist Bryant Terry, part of his struggle has been against the stereotyping of African American cuisine. To most people, it means soul food, and that translates into the comfort food eaten on holidays--high-fat meats and sugary desserts.
For Terry, though, African American cuisine is more diverse than that--and constantly evolving. He grew up in Memphis, eating meals rich in leafy greens, tubers, and seasonal foods harvested from his grandparents' urban backyard gardens. So it's little wonder that his first solo cookbook was called Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine. And that when he graduated from the chef's training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, he went not into a restaurant kitchen, but into food activism.
Terry started by founding b-healthy! (Build Healthy Eating and Lifestyles to Help Youth) in 2001 to raise awareness of food justice issues and empower young people to create a more just and sustainable food system. From 2008 to 2010, he was a Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellow. And for more than a decade, he has traveled the country, speaking out about ways to fix food deserts in our country and the disproportionate incidence of diet-related illnesses in poor and African American communities.
He also continues to cook and write--and he's host of the web show Urban Organic. His latest cookbook, published just last month, is The Inspired Vegan: Seasonal Ingredients, Creative Recipes, Mouthwatering Menus. And while Terry is a vegan, he doesn't advocate any one diet for everyone. Instead, he encourages people to eat local, seasonal, sustainably raised food. And regarding changing preconceived notions of soul food, the New York Times once said of the Character Approved Terry, "This young food activist makes Southern cooking healthy and cool."