September 21 2018

Chefs Stand Up: DeVonn Francis Speaks His Mind

Miami-Chefs Stand Up

The famed spaces that build up The Standard would be nothing without the diverse, eccentric faces that fill them. Namely, our awe-inspiring employees from all corners of the world. So while we see our current administration threatening immigrant safety and wellbeing, we’ve decided to take the fight to the dinner table with our Creative Director of Food and Culture, Angela Dimayuga, at the helm. Because we’re a family, and families stick up for each other. 

For the next iteration of Chefs Stand Up, our dinner series to benefit the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, we've teamed up with DeVonn Francis, chef and founder of Yardy. His food-focused events company based in New York uses Caribbean and coastal food as a medium for dialogue around identity, celebration, and sovereignty. For Francis' dinner, he drew inspiration from the Caribbean cultures of Bladimil Acosta, our Line Cook at Café Standard from Haena San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, and Youdelaine Dorcine, our Family Meal Cook at The Standard, East Village from Cap Haitian, Haiti.

Reserve your seat at Chefs Stand Up right here.

"Everyone deserves the right to decide what wealth and prosperity look like for themselves."

THE STANDARD: How did Yardy come to be?
DeVonn Francis: I created Yardy as a cultural investigation—sort of as a question: what does Caribbeanism look like now and how far can it go? I wanted to share my experience as a queer, Caribbean-American with the world. I was interested in creating a family within the food industry that would redefine how folks typically value food and culture. I wasn’t seeing a lot of businesses or business owners who looked like me or shared a similar cultural identity as me. I became passionate about making a space for queer brown people in the industry—but as an owner—business ownership is a really fundamental aspect for me.

How do you blend cooking, activism, and art?
Well, I see cooking as an art practice. Cooking and dinner spaces are really incredible performative spaces. A kitchen is all about who plays what role. A lot of what I do involves looking at societal roles. How do we all fit into different networks and why? Who gets to decide who does what? How does our social condition inform our self-perception and outward perception?

The Standard
The Standard

How does Yardy create a platform for that cultural investigation?
Yardy seeks to build partnerships with different brands and organizations that share a similar ethos as us —social justice, race and gender equality, opportunities for education. Working with The Standard and ACLU is great because hotels are iconic social spaces and aligning with the ACLU is a really great way to encourage guests to think about the part they play in the worlds we live in now with all of the BS this administration is pulling.

Who do you seek to inspire?
For this project with The Standard and ACLU specifically, I am thinking about the history of labor in hotel spaces by service people who are often immigrants. My grandmothers worked as service people, home-aids and nurse assistants throughout their careers in the U.S. It’s important to understand, bring visibility to and advocate for the “American” workforce which is built upon the legacy of immigration.

Personally, cooking for me has always been about uplifting myself first. Black and brown people, queer people, women—we often exist in environments that discourage us from finding value in ourselves. My hope is that this project uplifts other people who didn’t grow up with queer mentors or substantial support in their families or communities—people who were discouraged from thinking as big and as crazy as possible. 

On a grander scale, Yardy can do the job of redistributing wealth to areas and communities that need that the most. I don’t just mean actual money or material resources but also the resource of knowledge—being able to provide the tools necessary for sovereignty. Everyone deserves the right to decide what wealth and prosperity look like for themselves.


The Standard
Stylist
Monique Francis
Photographer
Zach Lewis
WRITER
THE STANDARD