Meet Chef Gabriela Alvarez
September 29, 2016
We can’t wait to see what she put on the menu for this year’s Potluck! We asked Gabriela a few questions about her cuisine and her work as chef, educator, and healer:
How would you describe your cuisine in three words?
- ALCHEMY – you can transform matter and the idea that you are what you eat, we can transform our bodies through what we can eat
- SELF-DETERMINATION – when we take care of our bodies, we are choosing our reality, that we can show up for our lives, work, and families, and determine what our life looks like
- REVOLUTIONARY – I talk with folks about choosing to love yourself with your food as a radical act of self-love and choosing your own survival
When and how did you first discover your love for food and culinary arts?
As a young child I used to love cooking. My mom taught me her recipe for flan coconut custard, which will be on the menu for the dinner. Cooking as I was growing up, I started realizing the sexism that existed in kitchens in homes, and didn’t want to be doing something that was seen traditionally as something women had to do
It wasn’t until college I fully realized the connection between food and health, self-determination, and saw it as a tool for activism and community health and discovered that this is my life purpose.
In addition to working as a chef, you are also an educator and activist, and studied community health and traditional medicine. Can you tell us more about that?
I offer cooking classes for both youth and community where people learn different cooking techniques, recipes, and how to shift the vibrations of their kitchen so their food can be more nourishing. I also collaborate with organizations and collectives and groups, whom I feel their work is aligned with my mission and the mission of Liberation Cuisine, and I cook for them or with them offering workshops for people for whom I really want to fuel their work…and one way to do that is through food. I studied community health in academia where I understand that food is a true public health intervention, where we can reach people in their homes every single day through what their are cooking and eating and remind them of their inherent power to determine their own wellness outcomes and health. We are the change that we have been waiting for, we don’t have to depend 100% on other people to heal us after it is too late
In regards to traditional medicine, I believe in the wisdom of our ancestor is thousands of years old, most often doesn’t have side effects, and are sustainable to our planet which we can’t say for conventional medicine. By turning back to the way that our ancestors used to eat, we can shape our future as a collective peoples.
I want to add, that the idea that I’m not necessarily teaching in the sense that I know everything, but I see myself as a facilitator for people to follow their intuition and be creative in the kitchen and find their own medicine through food.
You also mentioned your work towards food justice, healing, and liberation. Could you share more about being a co-founder of the El Puente Youth Culinary Program?
I co-founded the El puente culinary program because young people are our future, and I can teach them things that they may not learn at home or have access to in their neighborhoods, such fast food restaurants, and I teach them receipes and the ideas and stories that come with them, which is something extra from what we see every single day. In terms of the culinary apprentice program with the boom of the Food network, young people are interested in the culinary arts more than ever today and I touch on food politics, veganism, eating local, and lighting a candle to shift the vibration in our kitchens. If I can offer this knowledge to one young person who will work in a restaurant or as a chef wherever, I can help shift and change our food system so more people can be eating healthier and more nourishing food.
What are other experiences have you had with working with community and healing?
I have been recently been working more and more with intentional communities of color, these are groups of people of color that want to create something different and take care of one another, such as Soul Fire Farm, Harriet’s apothecary, and the Audre Lorde project. These are people who don’t accept the status quo and want to create the world that they want to live in, rather than exhausting all our energy into fighting against what we don’t want to see in the world, we can also do acts of love and healing to create the change we want to see in the world.
What’s next for Liberation Cuisine?
Two things that I have in mind, one is expanding this idea of collective catering, which is bringing in more people into the Kitchen of Liberation Cuisine to take part in cooking and nourishing people. People can really learn cooking techniques, recipes, and healing in the kitchen while also nourishing whoever it is that we are catering for.
The second thing is that I am thinking about a video component for liberation cuisine and really thinking about how we can reach more people and share the mission of Liberation Cuisine widely through video content.
What excites you most about working with The LP for our annual Public Art Potluck?
That cooking is also an art and I really get excited by working with other community-based artists to vibe off their work and their art to create a menu, and by cooking that menu, really energetically nourishing the work that they do. It’s a continual cycle of inspiration!
Which neighborhood of Brooklyn do you live in, and what do you love most about it?
I live in Williamsburg, los sures, and what I love most about this neighborhood is the Puerto Rican community that has withstood the intense gentrification that has been occurring in this neighborhood and has been able to keep their homes and businesses.
What’s your favorite film, book, or song about NYC? OR book, words, a film, or a song that comes to mind when you think of NYC?
“Nuyorico” by Caridad De La Luz aka La Bruja.