Ava DuVernay Gathers Chefs to Talk Authenticity, Inclusion, and Healing

The panel, which included chefs Preeti Mistry, Nyesha Arrington, and more, took place this week on the third annual National Day of Racial Healing.

Ava DuVernay
Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Juhu Beach Club chef Preeti Mistry raised an important point during a panel at Ava DuVernay’s “How We Heal” event in Los Angeles—the way we discuss European food is vastly different from the way we talk about other cuisines.

“We sort of elevate them in this way that when we talk about cuisines from other cultures, whether that be Indian, Mexican, all kinds of Asian, Latin American, etc....we tend to put them in this box," she said. "It’s ‘authentic,’ it’s this 'rough and tumble dive,' this 'hole in the wall,' and that is the only thing that is sort of exalted within non-European cuisines.”

Mistry was joined by fellow chefs Nyesha Arrington (of Native in Santa Monica), George Azar (Flowers of Vietnam, Detroit), and Dahlia Narvaez (Mozza, Los Angeles) to discuss the “importance of food and culture in racial healing”—part of a larger series of discussions during the "How We Heal" event DuVernay ran with her foundation, the ARRAY Alliance, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the third annual National Day of Racial Healing. The day was created to "reinforce and honor our common humanity, while celebrating the distinct differences that make our communities vibrant," according to its website.

"I think about the cuisines of China, and India, just thousands of years of history, and such complicated recipes, and such complicated techniques, and yet we sort of devalue them to this $7.99 buffet," Mistry continued. "So I think that there’s just a lot of work that we all need to do in how we celebrate all cultures and put them on the same level.”

Big Hollywood names including Laverne Cox, Judd Apatow, and Eva Longoria came together to talk representation, Time’s Up, and inclusion throughout the day. The chef's conversation touched on everything from the deliciousness of Vietnamese food (salt and pepper crab, in particular) to the importance of having diversity at an executive level.

To hear the full conversation, you can check out the panel below:

After the panel, DuVernay hosted a communal feast featuring dishes “celebrating the chefs’ respective cultural backgrounds and heritage.” Arrington served honey mustard black cod, crispy quinoa, and red mustard frills, while Mistry did dum biryani, slow-braised lamb, winter vegetables, and golden rice with a puff pastry top.

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