Earlier last week, DIAGEO hosted their BLEND OUT event, a homage to multi hyphenate creators making a positive impact in their communities.
The guests of honor were entrepreneur and cultural food advocate Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro, entrepreneur and philanthropist Luke Lawal Jr of HBCU Buzz, community advocate and designer Phillip Lim, and community impact leader Yvonne Guidry of Spoiled Latina, all of whom were told throughout their lives to blend in when they knew their true path required standing out.
The night began with a cocktail party where attendees drank specially curated cocktails made with Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal CÎROC Vodka, and plant-based Seedlip liquor substitutes, and ate delicious hor d’oeuvres from Black-owned food company Eat Okra. After an hour of mingling and dancing, it was time to kick off the BLEND OUT panel hosted by the legendary writer, director and advocate Janet Mock. The panelists answered questions about their career journeys along with a Q&A with the audience. The night culminated in an array of festivities with live tunes from DJ Quiana Parks and DJ King Marie, a photobooth, and an interactive pop-up bar where guests got to have 1:1 conversations with the bartender that explored the depths of one’s identity and the journey to self-expression.
The Knockturnal had the privilege of chatting with Ghetto Gastro’s Jon Gray before the night kicked off. We talked about confidence, what he eats in a day, his partnership with DIAGEO and much more:
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
On his partnership with DIAGEO and the BLEND OUT Panel
“It’s been a long partnership. [The partnership] is really about convening and bringing people together so I think we’re both really focused on that so that’s why the partnership has been working.
I’m looking forward to building with the different panelists tonight. I knew about Janet Mock of course but the other folks I wasn’t aware of until DIAGEO brought us together so I’m looking forward to hearing about their projects, how they blend out and just vibe with them and be inspired tonight.”
His words of advice for staying true to your authentic self
“I think one of the challenges today is that there’s so much external noise but I heard of this quote the other day that resonated with me. It says, ‘flowers don’t think about bees when they’re growing.’ So it’s basically about really focusing on your craft, and doing the work and staying true to what you do and letting the work speak for itself, versus caring about external validation throughout the building process. You have to have a vision and when there’s something you want to do, you just have to go towards that unapologetically. And just understand it also takes longer than you think it’s going to take.”
Where he gets his inspiration
“What I’ve realized is that sometimes [inspiration] doesn’t strike. You have to make time and set up time to create space and do nothing. And often inspiration can come in those times when you least expect it. Whether that’s in the shower or during a meditation or during your travels. Like today, I was driving down the west side highway and I was inspired by how the sun was glistening off the waves. It can come in different moments, you just have to be open and ready to receive it.”
What he eats in a day
“I’ve been fasting a lot lately. But usually i eat my first meal in the afternoon at like one o’clock. I work out, start with a protein shake then I do a protein. I’ll eat tuna, lately I’ve been eating not tuna, but horse mackerel. Really hood shit but it’s a fancy version. Instead of tuna out the can it’s horse mackerel out the jar, and broccoli rabe and peppers. I just moved into a new house and the oven isn’t working so I’ve been doing anything I can make out of the can. And for dinner I’ll go eat a nice dinner out in the city. I’ll go eat at Thai Diner, Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi, something like that.”
If he had to sell only one food item
“If I had to sell one food item only it would be the Ghetto Gastro pancake and waffle mix. I would pair that with some fried chicken, a nice Don Julio 1942 neat and I would drizzle [Ghetto Gastro’s] spicy maple syrup on the chicken and waffles.”
His dream dinner guest
“Samara Joy. [She’s] a jazz artist from the Bronx, she just recently won a Grammy for Best New Artist. I would love to break bread with her because she’s from the Bronx and she’s killing shit and doing things differently in an unexpected way. I’m inspired by that. I was actually at the Grammy awards when she won that award.”
Projects he has in the pipeline for the next year
“We got a lot cooking with DIAGEO, gotta keep that close to the chest for now. More blending out, not blending in, because we in it to win it and you can’t box us in. We’re also launching all of our products nationwide at Target. Pancake and waffle mix, the syrup I mentioned, we’re also doing toaster pastries.”
Be sure to scroll through the above gallery for photos from the event.