Bryant Terry is a man on a mission. Chef, author, food justice activist, daddy, and practicing Buddhist, Bryant recently entranced a rapt audience with his vision, his richly delicious recipes, and his sheer renaissance passion for food, culture, community, and tasty vegan cuisine.
It all happened at the iconic Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. The host was Book Passage and their Cooks with Books program known for its intuitive blending of venue and chef. Owned by the San Francisco Zen Center since 1979, Greens has become a Bay Area mecca for vegetarians and omnivores alike. It was the perfect place to showcase Bryant’s latest cookbook, Afro-Vegan: Farm-fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed.
Already an accomplished cookbook author of The Inspired Vegan, critically acclaimed Vegan Soul Kitchen, and co-author of Grub, Afro-Vegan is a culmination of his recipes, thoughts, and influences. Part cookbook and part historical narrative, Bryant traces the African diaspora noting the blending of cultures and flavors along the way all the while addressing the dynamic nature of food.
The cookbook is cutting edge placing food at the forefront of environmental, cultural, and social movements. Throughout the cookbook Bryant weaves in music and book suggestions, as well as his own personal reflections on building community around food and food justice concepts. Bryant’s thoughts empower readers by showing concrete ways food can act as a catalyst for change, fulfillment, and harmony.
Afro-Vegan showcases those same concepts in balanced, vibrant whole foods combined in fresh ways that make the meal so much more than the sum of its parts. Transcendent riffs on flavor reaped exponential rewards.
Lucky diners tucked into a spectacular menu while listening to music recommended in Afro-Vegan, making the whole experience truly unique and sensually multilayered.
Annie Somerville, Executive Chef at Greens, hand selected the menu and did a phenomenal job creating a balanced, satisfying, and visually stunning dining experience. Skewers of freshly grilled vegetables and firm tofu were topped in a luscious peach bbq sauce and served with green couscous. The sauce was a touch spicy, lending warmth to the sweetness of heavy, ripe peaches. The herby freshness of the couscous perfectly balanced the succulent vegetables and their fruity, spicy sauce.
Throughout the magnificent meal, the energetic Bryant regaled the audience with spirited Q and A, despite being an exhausted father of a three month old and three year old. When questioned regarding his thoughts on feeding his family vegan dishes, his response was refreshing and honest. “I really try to not make a big deal about it, I just try to make some good food and feed it to them. I don’t come out saying AND HERE’s THE VEGAN DISH, I just give it to them and let them decide.”
His attitude regarding vegan philosophy was again refreshingly relaxed. Stating that sometimes by making a big deal about being vegan can end up being counterproductive and intimidating to lay vegans, vegetarians, etc. The point being to move more in vegan directions and incorporate it more and more into one’s lifestyle, without judgment.
After the last question was answered and the last crumbs of the ridiculously fudgey vegan cake were eaten, you could feel the energized audience collectively musing about food, culture, music, and community, about life, about protecting it, and about cultivating it.
People came for the food and for the cookbook but left with so much more: music in their ears, Bryant’s vision on their minds, and inspiration in their souls.