The Bronx-born Ghetto Gastro collective (made up of Jon Gray, Lester Walker and Pierre Serrão) uses food as a vehicle for storytelling, educating and—in the spirit of their party-hosting origins—celebrating. They’ve released merchandise and held virtual cooking experiences, almost always in the name of Black empowerment and for the sake of protecting Black joy. They draw direct lines from Black cuisine to the foundation of American food and work to uproot the insidious systems that betray Black Americans. Gray, Walker and Serrão also actively work to assist subsequent generations through events, TED Talks, partnerships with ReThink Food and C-CAP and now with their new collaborative kitchen line: the CRUXGG appliance collection. Out today at Williams Sonoma, the collection will see 100% of the proceeds donated to the Know Your Rights Camp through 31 October.
The CRUXGG collection, named for appliance maker CRUX (founded by Shae Hong) and Ghetto Gastro, initially impresses with its aesthetic appeal. Matte black, stark red and chrome finishes formalize the theme, which nods to the Pan-African flag and the accents of an old Atari machine. “It’s about representation, and putting ourselves in the spaces that we’ve been largely not represented in,” Gray tells us.
Comprised of a blender, coffee maker, air fryer, bread maker, waffle maker and toaster oven, the release accounts for the essentials and more—and makes kitting an entire kitchen budget-friendly, with costs ranging from $69 to $299. Not only is it a suite of appliances designed by Black chefs and creatives but also for them.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a time where we’ve been considered,” Gray says. “Usually it’s just a generic tool. We’re thinking, ‘These colors work; this brushed nickel works.’ People like stainless steel in their home, their fridge is probably stainless steel, but I don’t think there’s ever been a moment—at least for me—where I’ve been like, ‘Oh, this is some fly shit. I want this. This is a dope tool.'” Their collection, however, is “something that you want to keep on your counter as a sculpture that represents and speaks to who you are.”
He continues, “I think the new luxury is being able to support and have objects that represent your tribe and represent what you’re about. When you think about the Bushwick Birkin—the Telfar bag—you see somebody with the Telfar Bag, and you kind of know. You have an idea of the world that they exist in. And I don’t think that’s been represented in the home space or the kitchen appliance space.”
Ghetto Gastro’s products also strive to stretch the capabilities of countertop appliances. The CRUXGG TRNR Waffle Maker, for example, can make eight waffles in under 10 minutes. Their BRED Bread Maker offers 15 preset programs, two variations in loaf size and the choice of three crust colors. Most impressive of all, the hybrid MUSA AirPro combines 10 functions into one machine: pressure- and slow-cooking, steaming, proofing, warming, air frying, baking, roasting, broiling, dehydrating and searing.
Gray and his partners’ ambitions also pushed the prowess of top-tier manufacturers, Hong says. From wanting to paint the interiors of items black to how they wished to incorporate texture, there were demands that could not be met but their “compromises” turned into successes nonetheless. “It was really about working with the guys on every step and facilitating a platform where they could express what they wanted to do,” he says.
“Food, for us, is always a vehicle for storytelling, whether it’s the consuming of food, the preparation, the politics around access or lack of access. But it’s really about nourishment at the end of the day. Breaking bread and breaking barriers through community,” Gray adds.
The entire collection is available today, 29 September, through Williams Sonoma. And as we mentioned, 100% of the proceeds from the CRUXGG collection will go to the Know Your Rights Camp through the end of October 2020.
Images courtesy of CRUX / Ghetto Gastro