The Pair Behind Savannah's The Grey Restaurant Dish on Their Memoir-Cookbook
"Black, White, and The Grey: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship and a Beloved Restaurant" is on shelves now.
What was once a segregated Greyhound bus terminal in downtown Savannah is now home to one of the city's most celebrated restaurants, and the unlikely duo behind it (The Grey's managing partner, John O. Morisano, and its James Beard Award-winning executive chef and partner, Mashama Bailey) is sharing the story of their eatery in a new book: Black, White, and The Grey: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship and a Beloved Restaurant. It's part memoir and part cookbook, chronicling the pair's personal experiences of opening their first restaurant and highlighting the recipes that have resonated with them most. Southern Living talked with the authors about their new release.
SL: Why write a book?
John O. Morisano: "There was a story here—Mashama and I both moving from New York to the South. Over time, it became a relationship book. We talked about the baggage you bring to a partnership—gender, race, upbringing… Before writing it, we hadn't really talked about race. We thought, 'Everybody wants the world to have this conversation; why aren't we having it?' "
Mashama Bailey: "These conversations are always relevant. They're not too overdone. For maybe the first time, people on both sides are having the courage to be honest about their biases, their limitations, and how they want to learn. White folks are actually listening to Black people and not treating it like this song that they've heard over and over again. They're actually looking into this system and how it's subjected people of color and poor folks and Black folks to this whole other culture that doesn't really coincide with theirs. I think because there's been this huge light shining on the systematic racism in this country, [the book] is going to be more welcomed now, or more people would be interested in reading it now, than maybe a year or so ago."
SL: How did you choose which recipes to include?
MB: "A lot of how Johno and I learn about each other is over a meal, so the recipes reflect what we've eaten together and things that resonate with us individually."
JM: "Yeah, it's just what we eat. That's what we do."
BUY IT: $28; amazon.com
SL: What do you want your readers to learn?
MB: "I hope they have a little bit of compassion for those who work in the restaurant industry, a little bit of respect and understanding. Restaurants are being crushed by the pandemic. I hope people see how much passion, hard work, and energy go into this business."
JM: "Ultimately, I think we wrote it because something is working between us. When you look at how different we are and how we shouldn't have been successful at [opening a restaurant] statistically, you realize that there's something that goes on between Mashama and me that works. And we just thought that there's something to be garnered from that."
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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