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Healthy Neighborhood Awardee: Chef Claudy Pierre, EAT Initiative

Interview by Jonathan Kersting

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The 2020 Impact Award is a special honor for this year only, to showcase an organization who has made a significant impact in their community through direct COVID-19 relief efforts or working to address ongoing issues of injustice and racism against the Black community.

Founded in 2015, the EAT Initiative was birthed out of Chef Claudy Pierre’s vision to help feed and sustain food insecure communities. Since then, EAT’s primary focus has been to inject cultural competency and food education into communities in Pittsburgh and around the world.

Upon immediately learning about the shutdown, and before most larger organizations had an organized plan, Chef Claudy and his team launched into go mode and cooked and provided 15,000 meals to residents in the Northside, Hill District, East Liberty, Southside, and beyond in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. This effort is still active to this day and his team is still preparing meals for hungry families. Chef has produced around 50,000 meals since March 2020 and is working with multiple community partners and elected officials to cement these efforts and transform this project into a long term solution. In addition, Chef was awarded a USDA federal grant that will allow him to donate nearly 300 boxes of fresh produce to local families on a weekly basis for the next two years. Lastly, he has launched a cooking channel to educate families on how to cook the fruits and vegetables that come in the boxes.

 

Transcription:

This is Jonathan Kersting, with the Pittsburgh Technology Council and Techvibe rRio. And I'm really excited and kicking off a series of podcasts with nNighborhood Allies to promote what is happening right now it is the 2020 Healthy Neighborhood Awards. This is just a true honor for me because I am interviewing people in the community in the neighborhoods that are making such a cool, positive difference, despite all the craziness that is going on right now, when it comes to COVID, social unrest, everything is being turned upside down. But one thing that keeps going on right, people are stepping up in their communities, and they are doing right by each other, they are making an impact, they're making a difference. And we're kicking off our series here today with a really special guy, I cannot wait to learn more about him. And to get more of his story. We are going to be hanging out with Chef cClaudy Pierre. And he is with the EAT Initiative. And he is the 2020 Impact Award. He Congratulations, Chef, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today.

Oh, man, thank you so much for having me, brother. This is a honor and a privilege to be here. And I can't tell you that I'm how excited I am to talk to you. But yeah, I'm more excited about some of the other people man, I'm like, Man, you know, we got some really cool stuff happening around the city. And all the other recipients are super awesome. So I'm like a big fan of theirs. Yeah. And I love the work that you guys are doing by highlighting everybody. So that Thank you. That's a big, big,

big thing for us. I mean, I was so honored when they asked me to do these podcasts because I don't know, like sometimes it's like when I talk to people, they give me energy, they pumped me up. And when I learn about the good things are doing it just it just ramps me up. And for us to get the word out into the tech community and beyond i think is just so important here in Pittsburgh. And like I said, You're the first one we are profiling this week, which I think is just so exciting. Because what you do, I mean, literally, it doesn't get any more core any more basic. And people having a good meal, having something to eat for crying out loud. And you've been feeding a lot of people. A lot, people and that is just amazing. So tell us about the eat initiative and start telling us about some of the impact you've been having. I mean, we're talking literally thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of meals.

Yeah, so thank you so much for that. I mean, the craziest part is we we've fed almost, we're close. We're about to hit 50,000 people since March. Wow. The craziest part about it is, it doesn't feel like work. Because we're so passionate we have so many people come together. Okay. Just to just to let everybody know, the eat initiative is EA T. Empowerment awareness and training initiative is founded by me Chef claudi mom, my grandmother actually had her leg amputated years back about five years ago. Wow. And even though I was already cooking for 10 years professionally, I figured like you know what, we need to talk about how even though this is the strongest woman I know her diet and making sure people ate regularly and sourced and urban agriculture and growing, growing your own food, how vital and important it was. And it just took off man we we've been able to teach people, we started a program with our partner on the eminent hospitality solutions, which is our, our culinary teaching called the knife skills, the life skills. So we basically have been teaching you know how to hold a knife about culinary, but also how to eat healthy. We teamed up with everyone from the YMCA to Carnegie Library to many organizations like the Pittsburgh tech council to do different events. And really just raise awareness around eating healthy and actually, you know, having fun while doing it. It's so important it's just so important on so many levels like I said, it's like this onion that we can keep unraveling because the levels keep kind of building on themselves. I mean everything obviously making sure that everyone's got something to eat not just eat something healthy to eat something healthy deep that comes from the local community. So you know, local farm so farmers are also supported. It's kind of like this win win win situation which I think it's just so important with the work you're doing. Before we jump into that though, what got you interested in being a chef was about cooking that like lights your fire as like man, that's my jam. I like cooking.

Man one thing that we all have in common I don't care if you white black, if you fall short. Whatever it is you got to eat we got so I'm Haitian right so I'm a my family's from the island of Haiti. Okay, very strong, resilient people. You know what I mean? You hear a lot about our country, in negative ways and in positive ways. So we come from a big family. I have eight siblings. Wow. So we we had very humble beginnings. But what we did have is a lot of love and a lot of food. Like my mother, she I tell you right now if you ask her to cook rice with two people, she can do it that way. I love it huge pots of food. So I figured something out, my mom will work a lot. And my grandmother, she would say, you know, I need help, I need help. None of us wanted to help her. But I found out that when you help her she actually let you eat and pick out things. Like I am a sneak I am a trigger into you know, feeding the first because I'm act like I'm helping. Grandma already peep the game. She already seen what I was doing, of course, right. And I'm thinking I'm being slick. So she's like, Yeah, do this next and do this next. And you know what, turn this around and go check it. Check this and check. The next thing. You know, I'm like doing all this stuff. Hey, Grandma, I'ma go ahead and turn the rice off now. And I'm gonna do this. And she's like, yeah. In the kitchen, I'm in the kitchen by myself. And grandma's nowhere to be found. I don't cook the whole meal for the family. There you go. You tricked me into learning how to cook. And from now on all my siblings are like, you got to cook for us. You got to do this. My teammates, I was a football standout to say. And all my teammates will come over pilots. Okay.

And only a popular guy in college.

Got me that, you know, when I wanted to flirt when I would bring a couple of friends over and impress somebody. That's what I did. And it just let me show you my nice control. And then the funniest thing is just to be honest with you. It's the same time I don't know man. The literally the skies and the moon the line. Yeah, it was the same time the Food Network was turned the corner, man. Remember that? In early 2000? Yeah, absolutely. Everything was chopped. And everything was you know, cooking food network. And so it was like, wait a minute, this is actually cool. So I had some friends, you know, crack jokes like, oh, man, you're going to school. We thought you were going to the Football League. You're going to school to learn how to flip burgers like you know, that was not come off. So now that they're all calling me and trying to get on my schedule talking about some Can you do this too? Can you do that? I'm like, Don't forget, I went to school tomorrow to flip burgers. Right. Interesting story. I love that man. That is a funny story. Thank you, I became a little bit of a knucklehead and so I lost a lot of scholarships on my senior in high school almost didn't graduate. And this is a part that I really want some of the students to come here and understand totally didn't just happen, you know what I mean? Like, I was resilient. And I said, You know what, I'm not gonna continue down this path. I said, God, you know, get me out of these these negative situations and I'm gonna, I'm gonna do something that I love. And I'm gonna come back when the next time I come back, I'm gonna be ready to you know, take on certain blessings. And I'm Pittsburgh, the court on blue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, that's what brought me to Pittsburgh, Jersey. Yeah. Oh, yeah. And the second day, I applied to the steelhead grill on the chef Greg Allison, again, took us to open 11. So all the Pittsburgh people that are listening will know this to be true. He left still had grill which was at the Marin City Center, all the penguins, one of the hottest spots back in early 2000. Absolutely. We opened 1111 kitchen, which is in the Strip District, which was one of the still I mean, before pandemic was still kicking. I worked on the chef Greg Allison, I worked on the chef Eve Kuro. So you know, I have that that formal kitchen background. But I never left the hood. I never I never let the you know, I never took the hood out of me. So I still have you know, that connection to my people. I still have the connection with the cooking. So when I went the pit, and I walked onto the football team, even though it didn't work out, I leveraged all my connections coach wine set on Darrelle Revis all the people that played during that time, I leveraged those connections until this day, I deal with a lot of my my pet people and a lot of my you know, my athletes, from the NFL and Major League Baseball on that we do some of our high net worth clientele, we do a lot of food for them and meal prep for them as well. So it's been very rewarding. I love it, man, you've just lived a remarkable trajectory.

Rather than go because I feel like you're taking off right now. And as you're doing that, you're helping so many people and that's just so important. Some people could just say am doing this thing, I'm gonna make money. I'll just cook for these high net worth individuals and they'll be great. And that's fine and perfect my art and you're doing that but at the same time, you're not forgetting where you came from, and that you want to give back and that you know there's a need and you're meeting that How awesome is that?

Well, the kicker is this right? So I was trying to build a restaurant just to be flat out honest. Yeah, I was trying to build an empire builder restaurant. I felt bad on my face. Yeah, fell flat on my face. Okay. And so what happened is, I'm in church one day and I'm like, Well, how am I going to make this work? How am I going to do this and I'm, you know, I'm, I look up after praying to God like how much Do this and like a video game? Yes, this sounds crazy. I know. I hear you. Like a video game. Above everyone's head was like hovering the company they work for in a church. So I'm looking at UPMC PNC Bank being why Mellon I'm like, wait a minute, I'm doing this all wrong. I'm going outward to look for clients and do things. But everything I needed was right there where I needed it, right, we already knew. And already in my neighborhood, and people that are already a part of, of me, and they know me, and they trust me. And I said, You know what, I start handing them business cards. And what do you need what you need, and this is, so it's like, sometimes we look outwardly, for what we need, but we already have it in our network in our community. And we need to stop looking at look within. And so believe it or not the message that that for me was, you keep trying to build something and then giving to your community. Why don't you build your community up? If you build your community and build with your community and help them build themselves? You can't fall because you're building you're building with?

Oh, dude, that is amazing. Yep.

Yeah. So knife skills, the life skills that we discuss, right? Yeah. So we're teaching people culinary and hospitality in every sector of hospitality, hospitals, medicine, in tech is everywhere. It is everywhere. It's absolutely. And we teach hospitality. We teach culinary. And these are life skills. So that's why we call it knife skills, to life skills. And then we're feeding the community with the people we're training.

It's a it's like, so crazy, but it's it makes sense. It makes sense. And this is the kind of stuff that we have to remind people that it doesn't take rocket science to help us heal. You know what I mean? It takes food, a lot of a lot of ailments and a lot of the dis ease that we're going through. You're not I mean, we have to find a way to put us at ease our bodies at ease our minds and what keeps you up at night, right? When you think about what keeps you up. Family, food, finance, exactly. Imagine if we could take away some fun. But of course, imagine if we take away the food element, right? And we say we can help satisfy that need for food. What happens is now you have a peace of mind. You have a peace of mind you you're able to strategize and you're able to think better, you're able to provide a meal for your family. You also can deal with your finances better. You now can also deal with your family. That's your domino effect, as you saw, solve the other ones as you go.

Exactly. And that's the problem because even us as adults, we're hangry we wake up, we don't eat man, you're grumpy. You're like, Man, I wish someone once said something to me. You're ready to fight. You know what I mean? As crazy as it sounds, once we eat once we get settled, you notice that you start figuring stuff out, it just starts clicking on it starts clicking so and so we started to do that with the community man, we're, we're not gonna call our communities by you know, just marginalized. And we're not going to keep saying oh, you know, it's a, it's a situation where we, you know, we're, we're, we're at risk. We're saying now we're talking about the community like it's an asset.

It's so empowering to flip it around like that. You flip it around.

Our Yeah. treyvion treyvion shorters is like a mentor to us. I'm part of a beanie cohort. Okay, trivia shoulders, he teaches what they call asset framing. And what that does is you frame your neighborhood as an asset. Like, if you look at a Chevy, let's say a 67. Chevy. And you say, Yeah, I got a clunker. You know what I mean? Like, I need 10,000 bucks to get rid of this and, and make it go away. You know, like, somebody might give you some money, maybe, maybe mean might not. But when somebody says, Hey, you know what, I got this beautiful 67 Chevy that needs some work. And if you invest into it, ah, you know what I mean, exactly fast into it. It's not a shithole. It's not a dump, you know what I mean? This is something that if we put the right money and attention to it, it's gonna be a beauty. It's a classic French accent on it, right? Gotta do that. So that's how we need to talk about our community. We need to start with the with the crappy talk about, you know, oh, these kids, you know, if we don't do something, they're going to all be super predators and horrible people. It's like, no, if I invest into this neighborhood, if I make sure they eat, right, if I make sure that they have what they need the tools that they mean, we are actually going to be better and that's what we're doing with food. We're giving you the empowerment, the awareness, and the training. And that's what the initiative is brother. And it's crazy, because it's like, it's so simple, but it actually resonates through every sector, empowerment, awareness and training. And it just so happens that it says he got crazy. It all gives me chills thinking about it. And I can understand why you're the PNC Bank 2020 impact already for all this because this is just some crazy cool work. Thanks, man. And I just can't I mean, I'm just I'm just so happy I got to talk to you today and it's a blessing. Now, you

know, like, there's hope for this world. You know? Like I said,

Man, I'm gonna be honest with you even though I talk about the political stuff that's happening. That's that's really saddening and disheartening, even though I do talk about you know, the police brutality that we have to stand up we really not okay, I talked about the racial and justices, we have to stand up as have to say it's not okay. But I also would be remiss if I don't say that I've been able to work with some beautiful people, you know, that really are helping us feed thousands of people. And I cannot run this I cannot take away from that. I've worked with Pittsburgh police department, I've worked with black led organizations, I've worked with white LED organizations I've worked with, you know, International. And speaking of which, on next Friday. Okay, I'll tell you the 16th Yes, we have the United Nations is a, you know, obviously a world organization. And they're celebrating the 75th anniversary. This is World Food Day. Sothis is my day, my day. Yes, come on. Day two, I'm gonna share it with the world are you cooking.

So we're doing a live stream, we're gonna have, we're gonna be giving away some of those blessing boxes, the boxes that we talked about before, we're gonna be giving away hot meals, I'm doing a live cooking demonstration. And we're going to be actually acknowledging about 15 local organizations and community people, stakeholders that we found have been helping around food and media and everything. But also, we're recognizing those people for what the work that they've been doing throughout the covid 19. So we're acknowledging people were like, We can't stand by and just say this didn't happen. We've been we couldn't do this alone. So World Food Day, please definitely tune in the site is www. Eat at World Food day.org. And I'll put the link up and we put up where we post it in the liner notes of this as well. Yes, for sure. www, Eat World Food day.org. And we are teaming up with quite a few organizations that you guys know of. So we're excited. We're going to have a live cooking demonstration, we're going to have a lot of things happening. And we teamed up. So the eat initiative, we have chef friends in Oakland, California, okay, we have chef friends in Brooklyn, New York City, since we can't go see each other right now. We've been all on zooms, and all talking. So they're all going to be a part of the celebration. So that's going to make it even better. And then we're also going to be launching a major campaign. So you're getting groundbreaking news right now, I love it. We're gonna be launching a campaign called put your money where your mouth is. So it's a it's a, we're going to be launching that campaign to raise money towards all the things I just talked about feeding the people we believe in. And this is a lofty goal, but I think it's attainable because of the tech because of the medicine because of the education because of the beautiful people. And even the philanthropy right? Of course, I believe and you hearing it here, and I set it a couple of different platforms. But I'm telling you, I've been saying this for like, this whole year, I believe with the efforts that I've seen come together in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yeah, we are going to be able to coin and boast that Pittsburgh is the first food secure city in the nation. Wow, that's gonna be safe. Oh, man, that's gonna happen.

Yeah, I'm hearing it from chef quality Pierre and the eat initiative. We believe that with the tech, the philanthropy, the people, the education all the universities that especially the tech Hello tech yet, and underpins it. All right, come on. Listen, we believe that Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will be boasting that we are the first fruit there will not be one corner in the greater Pittsburgh area that you cannot get fresh access to fresh produce and access to a hot meal. There will be no corner between the eat hotline and 311 between between all the places and all the things that we have. Yeah, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania here Here I will be the first food, food insecure food security in the nation and we cannot boast it. There's no way you can turn without you don't have to have $1 in your pocket, though you know you'll be able to get food so you're hearing it first and shout out to the food access network. I want to give a shout out to the eat initiative all my team I cannot do it without you. Everyone in the food access network you know who you are is a network of different companies and food services that we're all working together to do this. And I just want to say thank you for having me man. I'm gonna have to run honored but thank you so much, man for having me thank you for for just taking the time out and recognizing all the other resources As well um I definitely want you guys to lock in and and pull up to the Eat World Food Day on next Friday and what else you got for me brother You got anything else good

that is it I tell you what you have fired me up and I cannot wait to tell the rest of the stories because there is amazing stuff going on that is for sure and you guys and leading up just so thrilled to talk to you good luck with everything else at your dank you man. Thank you man you're making

good stuff. Good. I

hope I did good on interview man you did fantastic. I think like you read it out of the park. Pittsburgh Technology Council and tech live radio, hanging out with neighborhood allies tell these awesome stories that are happening right here in Pittsburgh.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai