"It’s about being mindful, being on the journey and improving every day."
- Chef Bryant Terry
For Eco Chef Bryant Terry, one could say food memories led him to where he now stands; fighting food stereotypes. His goal is to teach young people and people of color that they can eat healthy, fresh, seasonal food and even meat free if they want too. He remembers cooking food from the garden with his sister, his parents and grandparents. He also notes that when he was growing up, meat was just a part of the meal rather than the central component.
Fast forward years later and people of color are constantly faced with unhealthy food choices depending on where they live. In addition, fast and cheap food is often considered acceptable for those who are in a lower economic class. And being a vegetarian has itself become a stereotype of its own over the years, most often associated with the wealthy, white elite.
While a vegetarian eats no meat though might consume fish or dairy, a vegan neither consumes nor purchases anything that is product or bi product of any animal. Chef Bryant stresses that he does not label himself vegan even though his current book may suggest so. He simple prefers to follow the principles of a plant based diet and he wants people to be open to the possibility of making healthy choices by progressing from their values. He feels labels and categories create all or nothing situations where people may just give up if they slip.
"This movement around eating healthy is a part of our heritage… this whole notion that we are disconnected from slow food, no, this is our tradition. It’s about re-embracing something that is near. Growing food, fresh food, people had a different relationship with food. If things got off track in two generations, if we work our butts off, we can get back on track easily."
Originally from Memphis, he attended Xavier University in Louisiana before heading to New York and culinary school attending the Natural Gourmet Institute. Deeply influenced by the likes of Edna Lewis, he is very much a proponent of buying local, seasonal ingredients and this is the style of cooking that drives his food. Feeding the soul comes naturally to him.
Chef Bryant’s second book, Vegan Soul Kitchen took off in way he never imagined. He has spent the last year traveling the country meeting folks who are excited, moved and growing in new ways because of it. The book has opened ready minds to possibility. Now, he is currently hard at work on his third cookbook where he explores a year of eating locally, something that is new to many Americans. He also strives to move young people to a new way of thinking so that options become more varied and they in turn can teach their families.
"People use expense as an excuse to not get up and go get fresh food. One thing we have to do is think about cost in a more expansive way. When we think about cost, we can’t just think about money."
He feels that his simple approach of a plant based diet is something people should consider for health, for sustainability, for kindness to the animal kingdom. He believes compassionate eating is important, within our communities, within our families and within ourselves.
Photo #4 by Sara Remington and Photo #5 by Bart Nagel
For more on Chef Bryant Terry and his books, please visit his website at