How One Chef Is Fighting On The Front Lines For Food Equality

When I first met Chef Bryce Fluellen, we were at a food sustainability roundtable, hosted by Erin Schrode and Evan Marks of The Ecology Center. Eventually, the conversation turned to food deserts — lower income neighborhoods where stores selling vegetables are far more rare than dialysis clinics. Having covered Bryce’s work before, I knew that he was perhaps the most suitable person at the table to take the lead. If someone deserved to be a know-it-all, it was him.

But Bryce didn’t do that. He sat back, he listened, he processed. Later that night, at dinner, he drew parallels between the viewpoints we’d heard and the conversations he has about similar issues in south Los Angeles. As Bryce spoke (and I wolfed down the best Mexican food in Orange County), I realized that I was listening to a man with vision, a man who would most certainly be on the forefront of food equality and sustainability conversations for years to come.

To sit with Chef Bryce now, is to see a passionate man whose dreams seem to all be congealing at once. He launched a book three months ago. Last week, he held a pop up dinner with the Detroit Food Policy Council; this week, he was filming on The Bailey Rae Show. His innovative series Kids at the Table has been hosted by the likes of CBS and Nike and somehow, amidst all this, he still finds time to teach teens every week. It’s a hustle, and an important one.

As Bryce raced from Detroit to Hollywood, he made time to chat with us about how to kickstart change within our food systems at the community level and the importance of empowering kids.

Tell me about your goals in the food sustainability movement, and also the food representation conversation.

I think that food is that connector for a lot of folks. It’s universal. What I’ve found is through the power of food, you’re bringing people together to have conversations about other things that are impacting their lives.

By the summer of 2018, I really want to have a summer camp where I bring teenagers from under-served areas together for three to four days and we focus on — not only healthy eating and cooking — but raising their consciousness around the environment, and then also raising their consciousness around policy, because all three of those things intersect.

A lot of times people who haven’t worked with kids will say, “Oh, kids don’t eat healthy. They won’t eat this.” What I’ve found is that, they haven’t been exposed or they don’t have access to certain ingredients and certain foods, so they don’t have that familiarity. Once they do, it’s something that they hunger for, and they often wonder and they question, “Well, why is it that we don’t have access to healthier food, but we have an over-consumption and over-access to soda, chips, everything else in our community?” They ask those tough questions.