Yo Stay Hungry is a live culinary competition bridging hip hop with food and beverage. It began in 2015 as a citywide culinary competition for high school students in Queens, NY.
We caught up with founder, Syreeta Gates to find out more about how she and her team are using food and hip hop to educate and inspire.
What inspired you to create Yo Stay Hungry?
For some context I actually wanted to be a chef in high school (that’s what it says in my yearbook). In HS I was baking and selling cakes, lasagna and all of that. So, some years later I googled hip hop and food and the only thing that appeared was a few articles that had lyrics mentioning food and beverage.
I was like wait a minute, something is missing. I was rocking in August Martin HS at the time and they had a Culinary Academy, so the bells went off. What’s hip hop without beef? BOOM! Let’s do a culinary competition.
How would you describe your relationship with hip hop?
My boy Yahdon Israel said hip hop is my first language. I really dig that! My relationship with hip hop is rooted in my relationship specifically with my uncles and big cousins. More specifically, how it happened was really the brainchild of stylist extraordinaire’s Misa Hylton and Groovey Lou.
In the late 90’s, one of my uncles had a cream SC 400 Lexus with gold bbs’s. He and my cousin walked into my grandma’s house as I was sitting on the step and I was absolutely blown away. Mind you, I was only about 10 years old.
My uncle had on a Versace silk shirt with the matching shades and my cousin had on a DKNY body suit. I had no clue was hip hop was, one thing I was clear of was that whatever it was I wanted to be apart of it.
How do you select what chefs are involved with the project?
We rock though referral, a lot of chefs have been reaching out to us to participate, so that’s been great. We have a system around how we choose chefs to rock, but we are thankful they see what we are doing and want to be apart of it.
What does the phrase “Everybody eats” mean to you?
It means there’s enough room for everybody at the table. “Everybody Eats” is one of our beliefs at Yo Stay Hungry. The phrase represents the idea that through teamwork everyone is taken care of. #teamUS Everybody Eats is also from the classic 2002 drama “Paid In Full”, you know we have to keep it consistent.
What is your vision for YSH?
Take over the world LOL! Nah, more specifically, Yo Stay Hungry will take over people’s kitchens. We will put on for the culture and preserve the culture in a way that’s never been done before. We have the adult competitions launching Fall 2019 which I am really excited about.
Why a food and hip hop business?
We live in a world where hip hop is pop culture. I don’t believe that Yo Stay Hungry could have existed before my generation. Folks like Jay Z, Queen Latifah, Sylvia Robinson, and Puff and the like really set the stage around what’s possible business wise in the culture.
They created TV/film opportunities, record labels, make up endorsements, liquor companies, streaming services, and the like. Throughout the entire genre of music one thing that has been consistent is food and beverage.
With Yo Stay Hungry we have an opportunity to build a business for the culture, literally. We aren’t looking at it from the outside looking in. The team is thinking what would we be interested in, what would we want to do, and from that we create a business model that’s scalable.