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We’re continuing to amplify Black Voices. Join us every Monday in June for a dialogue on being Black in America on Instagram @BravoTV.
As people nationwide are protesting, donating, signing petitions and taking more actions to create change amid the Black Lives Matter movement, many are also making an extra effort to spotlight and support Black-owned businesses. In a candid conversation in the video above, Gregory Gourdet noted he is hopeful that the support of Black-owned restaurants and other businesses will grow far beyond a temporary response.
“I think it’s really fantastic. I think, at the same time, it is a bit reactionary because it is a reaction to something that’s just really awful that’s happening and this is how we’re dealing with it now," the Bravo's Top Chef contestant said on the June 15 installment of the Instagram Live panel, Amplify Our Voices: An Open Dialogue on Being Black in America. "But I think at the end of the day, if we’re able to walk away from this with a spotlight on all of these places that we’ve never heard of and we can continue to support them, this is not a fad, [but instead] this is: we’re reading these books and these books become part of our library; we’re going to these restaurants after they’re reopened and all of these other fine dining restaurants are open as well, but we’re still continuing to support these businesses. I think if we’re continuing to be aware of these resources, these Black and POC resources, and it’s not a fad [in that] as soon as the next thing happens we shift focus, then I think it all makes sense."
He added: "We need to recognize the contributions of Black and POC to this county in the finer details of everyday living. That presence is 100 percent there."
Although Gregory noted “if you look at fine dining, it is a very male, white kind of establishment," the overall restaurant industry tells a very different story. "One third of all restaurants in America is run by a person of color. Half of all restaurants in America are owned or run by women," he said. "When you think about what the American restaurant looks like, it’s far broader than the images that we see in fine dining and maybe some of the things that we might see in publications."
Representation in media is a part of the problem, Gregory said. "I think that these publications, these food magazines that are coming down right now, they’ve made all these types of different cultures of food, they’ve made them food trends," he explained. "From African food to the new wave of southern Black chefs, to Filipino food, they make these things trends when in actuality it’s not a trend in where it’s from."
History, Gregory explained, is an important part of understanding the profound impact people of color have on the restaurant industry. "If we’re truly looking about what the American restaurant is, they are filled with people of color because at the end of the day, the white men who founded this country, we were the people who cooked for them," he said. "We are still the foundation of restaurant and eating in this country because restaurants and dining in America were made with our work."
After years of working in incredible restaurants including Portland's Departure, where he is the Director of Culinary Operations, Gregory is set to open his first eatery, Kann, next year. "I was trying to open in January, but I’m taking some time. I’m going to let this ‘rona [COVID-19] do her thing," he explained. "I just want to see what American dining looks like. To me this is a very, very important restaurant. It’s my dream restaurant. I was at my last job for 10 whole years. This is my first step doing my own thing and I just want to do it right."
When it opens, the menu will reflect a variety of Gregory's life experiences. "It’s a very personal restaurant. it’s just all my upbringing. It’s all my Haitian heritage. It’s everything I’ve learned over the years," he said. "So this is a very personal project. So for me, I want to do it just right. It’s more important that I open right than I open as soon as possible, so hopefully summer '21 is when I’m shooting for."
Check out highlights from the Amplify Our Voices: An Open Dialogue on Being Black in America conversation above.
For the latest reporting on the Black Lives Matter protests from NBC News and MSNBC’s worldwide team of correspondents, including a live blog with minute-to-minute updates, visit NBCNews.com and NBCBLK.
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