Gabriela Álvarez

Gabriela Álvarez
Location: Brooklyn, New York Cohort Start Year: 2019 Project Topic: Food Systems and Nutrition Populations Served: Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories
Liberation Cuisine

At the start of the CoHL Fellowship Gabriela had been working as a chef for nearly a decade. She originally went to culinary school with the intention of improving mainstream narratives around healthy BIPOC food. Her work is in response to systemic food apartheid, BIPOC food stories and medicinal wisdom being erased or appropriated, and widespread whitening and exclusion of working class people in self-care movements. Throughout her career she’s straddled culinary industry standards and indigenous people’s foodways in an effort to move the needle towards a healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food system. The CoHL Fellowship gave her an opportunity to step away from industry expectations and reground her work in the original intention of uplifting traditional foods and medicine. Gabriela is currently working on a cookbook of recipes from BIPOC cultures around the world using ingredients local to the northeast of the United States. Her hope is that readers will be inspired to explore their own ancestral foods even when living far from the lands where those dishes may have originated. She is also producing a web series of farmers in Puerto Rico and the diaspora who turn to the land to feed their communities, hold onto their culture, and practice self-determination within a colonial context.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: BIPOC ‘Self-preservation’ Initiative for Anti-racism, Self-care, and Sustainable Food
My work intertwines anti-racism, sustainable food, and self-care (or, as Audre Lorde says,” self-preservation”). ‘Self-preservation’ responds to BIPOC being systemically driven to food apartheid, their food stories and medicinal wisdom erased or appropriated, and widespread whitening of the self-care movement that excludes BIPOC. I approach my work with the framework of fractals where self-care is linked to community wellness, and caring for the Earth directly impacts an individual’s health. ‘Self-preservation’ will dive into concrete ways that BIPOC can sustain themselves and their communities into the future. It will offer integrated solutions, with resources for individual healing and liberatory ways to approach structural change in our communities. This will be a series of video episodes and curricula that guide continued conversation. Topics may include indigenous foodways, plant medicine, growing food, land sovereignty, local food systems, and sustainable living. Episodes may include how-to guides, breakdowns of complex systems, and interviews. A coalition of community partners will determine the content areas. Each episode will center and share solutions geared towards African, Latinx, and/or Indigenous communities and be accompanied by curricula geared towards adults and children.

Gabriela is a plant-based chef and storyteller. Her love affair with food began at a young age watching her mother use food as medicine to heal an autoimmune condition. Gabriela herself has faced autoimmune disease while working in kitchens and found holistic medicine in her collaborations with farmers and herbalists in the northeast and Puerto Rico. She’s refining a writing practice through the process of authoring a cookbook and developing her filmmaking skills through the production of a web series (her strategic initiative) in an effort to become a more impactful storyteller in her communities. Gabriela believes that healthy relationship with land and food is a human right to be honored and sustained.


Click here to watch Gabriela’s Legacy Project video.