North Side Chef Aims To Empower Community Members 'Through Their Stomachs'
North Side Pittsburgh Chef Claudy Pierre is focused on teaching community members to prepare fresh food that is both nutritious and affordable. In fact, that’s the mission of the community program he has run the past four years called E.A.T., which stands for Empowerment, Awareness and Training.
Chef Pierre spoke about the initiative with 90.5 WESA's Elaine Effort.
Below are excerpts of their conversation for our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories.
Portions of this conversation have been edited for length and clarity.
Pierre on why he feels the need to take time away from his catering and restaurant businesses to hold community cooking demonstrations:
"Well, health is wealth. So, as we're trying to pour into our communities and talk about the sustainability of our neighborhoods, the one thing that we have to remember is self-care. We have to eat right, because if you eat crap, you're going to feel like crap. And that’s not just how to prepare meals, but also how to source them; how to find affordable, tasty opportunities for you to be healthy.
We did a healthy cooking demonstration [with the AARP at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the historic Hill District] and talked about the benefits of, you know, roasting or baking chicken. Fresh vegetables and fruit. You know, not having to cook your greens for ten hours with a ham shank in order for it to taste good. So, we really just talk to some of our senior citizens about the benefits of working out and actually eating healthy at even a more seasoned age, so that they're living longer and feeling better."
Pierre on the affordability of fresh foods in inner-city neighborhoods:
"Some might say, 'Hey, you know what? It's hard to find good food, it's hard to locate good food and pay for it.'
But I say, which one is more expensive? Going to the hospital because you have high blood pressure and diabetes, and you need all types of medications, or taking some time out and actually making a list, finding out where their local farmers market is, calling some friends, going together. You know, putting some thought and some money behind you eating healthy. That's not as expensive as the bills you're going to accumulate because you're not healthy. So, when you break it down like that, it's a long-term investment, and it's actually really inexpensive."
Pierre on using food as a means of reinvesting in the community:
"It's important to me because I was fortunate enough to have some really strong mentors, and I got to see black excellence, and I got to see minorities, you know, people from different countries come here and have a wonderful opportunity to grow businesses. I got to see teachers who didn't just teach, but they helped the community.
And now I am that person, so I have to pay it forward; I have to make sure that we lift as we climb. And we have to make sure that these next generations, as they're getting disconnected from the social aspect of things that we connect back with them. And what's the best way to do it? Through their stomachs."