After seven years of serving as the first chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, Bryant Terry says this weekend’s Black Food Summit marks the crown jewel of the programming he’s accomplished in his time at the museum. The summit is inspired by, and takes themes from, Terry’s award-winning book Black Food and his experience in becoming the lead of his own imprint, 4 Color Books. But beyond leveraging Terry’s experience from the last 20 years — with the help of the team from MoAD — the program also centers local Black chefs, writers, designers, publishers, and food.
“It’s very exciting that there are a lot more Black-led gatherings of this nature,” Terry says, name-checking events such as chef Kwame Onwuachi’s the Family Reunion and the BayHaven Food & Wine Festival in Charlotte. “I really hope that we continue to see many more of these kinds of food and beverage gatherings that are led by Black people. We want [gatherings] that feel culturally relevant, we want ones that are coming from people who have been on the ground doing the work. So, for me, it was really important to ensure that this gathering really had the characteristics and energy of the Bay Area.”
The two-day event is broken up into two parts, with Friday’s panel focusing on publishing, from writing to book design, and the publishing world itself — something Terry has immersed himself in, both as an author and head of 4 Color Books. He says the goal is to help others navigate the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Attendees will hear from publishing industry vets, such as Random House’s Porscha Burke and Jamia Wilson, and budding authors will have the opportunity to learn about all things books, including how to stand out from the crowd. “Cookbooks are a dime a dozen these days, and I think what’s going to continue to help projects rise above the fray are ones that are just deeply moving and powerful,” Terry says. “I think a lot of that is driven by the kind of stories that authors can mine, from both their own personal lives or histories or their communities.”
The second day will focus on leisure, lifestyle, and radical self-care — taking a page, quite literally, from Terry’s book — and leading attendees outdoors to TomKat Ranch in Pescadero. There, Terry is excited to have the group be in nature, as well as to have Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry lead the group through a guided rest. The day will be capped off by a dinner prepared by a roster of accomplished Bay Area chefs, including Matt Horn, Jay Foster, Wanda Blake of Wanda’s Cooking, Fernay McPherson, Isabelle Nunes of TomKat Ranch, Jocelyn Jackson, and Tina Stevens. At the end of both days, Terry hopes those who attended leave nourished in multiple ways.
“I want people feeling motivated to implement these ideas in their own lives,” Terry says. “I think the whole idea of just creating beauty in one’s life, like the power of familial and cultural recipes — I think that it’s important to document these things and that’s one of the reasons I became a publisher.”
To add to that, Terry’s looking at the future of Black-led events in the food world, hoping to create a space where chefs don’t feel beholden to accolades from food institutions like the James Beard Awards to be “seen as the real deal,” he says. “I just want people to be inspired about community-owned, community-driven, increasingly Black-led movements within this larger food space,” Terry says. “I want people to know that we’re good enough because we exist, because we have this glorious past, and that our stories, our history, our memories are valuable, just because they are.”
It’s an introspective way of looking at the summit, and Terry also seems to be taking a longer lens to figure out his next steps. After he concludes his residency at MoAD in December, Terry says he sees his chance to move away from the food world for a moment of self-care and reinvention — especially after the grueling process of putting together Black Food in just nine months. For now, he plans for Black Food to be his last book — at least until he writes his memoir in a couple of decades, he says with a laugh — but he won’t be completely stopping his work. He’s busy this year as he continues to lead 4 Color Books, as well as work as an Artist Fellow and Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley and serve as a San Francisco Opera Instigator. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to figuring out “what the next decade of my creative life will look like,” he says.
“Black Food is my sixth book and I always talked about stepping away from the game when I’m at that kind of apex in my career,” Terry says. “I do feel like Black Food was certainly the crown jewel of my body of work in terms of books. So I feel good about stepping away being on top.”