Austina Smith, Chef
Grand Living Bridgewater
Since winning NRAEF’s Faces of Diversity [video] award in 2020, Smith has felt empowered to have deeper conversations about race. “As a chef, I can tell a story through food, which creates that connection and builds trust,” she says.
For instance, Smith teaches residents at Grand Living Bridgewater, a senior living community, about cassava, an essential ingredient in many Latin American and Caribbean cuisines, as well as her native country, Sierra Leone. “Residents are surprised when they learn that the tapioca pearls used in pudding come from this plant,” she says.
At her son’s school, where she co-chairs an “Open Communications” committee, she proposed a potluck dinner themed “What Does Barbecue Mean to You?” “Barbecue is a great common denominator, yet it’s so diverse across countries and even regions of the U.S.,” Smith says.
The pandemic had a major impact on Smith, who lost her father to COVID and recovered from the illness herself. Once she returned to work, she found great comfort in serving fellow employees and residents, whom she calls “family,” and helping those suffering from a prolonged power outage in her community.
“Beauty is more than your skin; it’s in your heart,” she says.
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