by KeOnte Criswell | photos by Jeremie Serrano
Fast Facts about Jeremie:
• Recommends drinking something warm, like hot chocolate, for late night cravings
• Is a fan of Lenny Kravitz (who drinks water at night instead of eating)
• Is an activist
• Went viral in 2020
• Supports Goode Foods, a Black-owned company
• Responds to his DMs (he’s in a relationship so keep it classy)
• Not up for NFTs
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the lovely young creator, Jeremie Serrano. Upon first look, it’s easy to get swept up in the “everything” of him. The gorgeous flowing locks laying obediently to one side, the sweet endearing face that is both open and enigmatic, and the soothing presence that has you at ease before he speaks a single word. The impression I walked away with was this incredible young man is more than a gifted artist and vegan chef. He is a multifaceted creative who heard the call on his life and answered with no hesitation. Fueled by confidence and passion, Jeremie stepped into his full self and followed his dreams. I invite you to come join me on the journey to get to know the man and the mind behind La Comida de Jeremie.
KC: Tell me a little bit about who you are, your background, and what your influences were.
JS: I am Jeremie Serrano. I was born in Puerto Rico but I was raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I’ve been living in Memphis for five years. I’m a full-time artist and vegan chef. I started my platform in 2017 when I moved here. My influences come from my upbringing. I grew up in the hood of Bridgeport, really close to New York City. I also grew up with a very big diverse presence of different backgrounds like Puerto Rican, Jamaican, all kinds of people. You’ll see a lot of my work takes influence from all of that. I also like to celebrate queer life and relationships and those kinds of things. I like to hone in on all of that stuff and really educate people about my culture and where I came from.
Is there a way you crossover your art into your cooking?
I get this question a lot and I’m always wondering why I mixed the two because when I first started my platform was all about food. I hadn’t touched art in about 10 years. I picked it back up when the pandemic started. I started watching TikTok videos, which I had never done before and I remember seeing people sell art and I thought maybe I should try drawing again. I thought long and hard about how I could mix this in with my platform. But I honestly think about food as art. I feel like we eat with our eyes. Like if you see an ugly plate of food, you’re not going to want it. So I think of it as art. You want to make sure your plate is beautiful. I don’t have a restaurant so what I’m serving people is content. I want to make sure when they see a photo of my food or a video of me cooking, it’s appealing to the eyes. That helps make them want to create what I’m creating.
What is the gift you bring to the world?
A different perspective. When I first started cooking vegan food, and making it Puerto Rican vegan food, it wasn’t that big of a thing. Our culture is very meat heavy, we eat a lot of pork and beef, so people weren’t really looking for that. There were a couple of other vegan Puerto Ricans that were doing similar things, but I wanted to bring my perspective. I grew up in the hood so I’m used to eating at bodegas or the fried empanada spot and I wanted to showcase that side of veganism as well as show how it was possible for people like me, who grew up in similar areas and didn’t have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s how to eat vegan. That was very important to me. Also, with my upbringing, I grew up with a single mom and with my grandmother and I’m also gay as hell and I didn’t see people like myself on TV. Especially on the cooking channel. I felt like I had an obligation to bring that and make sure that platform was built for people looking for someone like me to cook with.
Who introduced you to cooking?
My grandmother and my mom. My mom has been a baker my whole life. As a kid, I loved watching my grandmother make stuff. She didn’t even need to teach me how to cook anything. Just being in the kitchen with her is how I learned to cook.
How do you approach creating, both with your art and with your food?
I have a lot of ideas and I’m a night owl so whenever I get an idea, I learned this from my grandmother, I have these little notebooks and I’ll just fill them up. Whenever I have an idea for an illustration or a recipe, I’ll write it down. If I don’t have a notebook with me, I use the notes app on my phone. I’ll write whatever I have going on in my mind. For my illustrations, I do 20 million sketches. For my recipes, sometimes I make stuff for myself and if it works, I’ll share it. I think it’s important to write down every single idea. And I try to be open-minded. I know not everything is going to get a bunch of “likes” on Instagram or TikTok. So, it’s important for me, specifically, to love what I’m doing and what I’m sharing even if the people on the other end are not really welcoming it. I think it’s more important to do what I want to do and what I love versus what people are looking for. It’s good to keep in mind what people are looking for because that helps build your audience and build engagement. But at the end of the day, you don’t want to hate what you’re doing. You must find that balance. People will hate it or love it, but you still have to do what you want to do.
Do you find that you practice self-care through your food and your art?
For sure, it is my main source of self-care. Also sleeping in whenever I can and napping. I think food and art has always been where I find my comfort, where I find my happiness. It’s also a big part of my family life and my upbringing. That’s how my grandmother showed love to everybody. She would make the biggest pot of rice and share it with whoever came through the door. Being able to share that (food and art) with my supporters and whoever else sees my content is huge for me. And it’s what brings me joy. I love cooking, I love drawing, and I love creating with my hands.
What’s your comfort food?
It’s between Puerto Rican food and Vietnamese food. When I moved to Memphis, I was introduced to lemongrass tofu and I fell in love with it. There is no Puerto Rican food here, other than my own. When I go to Puerto Rico or back East, I get all the Puerto Rican food.
How do you nurture the person and how do you nurture the artist?
Even though I don’t have a strict work schedule, I believe it’s important to have a schedule and have a separation of your artist life from your personal life. It can be hard because when the artist’s mind comes on, it could be nine a.m. or it could be midnight. I can’t have a strict schedule for drawing or cooking. It comes to me when it comes to me. I think it’s also important to have a day to chill, no working or responding to DMs. I spend time with my boyfriend and our dogs, and go out to dinner with friends. I allow myself the freedom to just enjoy life. That’s another reason I quit my job. I wanted to enjoy life and create on my own terms.
Tell me about your store:
I try to offer a wide variety. At first I was going to sell stickers but after the viral situation, people started asking me for prints of the illustrations. That’s how I got the idea to draw things, print them, then sell them, and people can frame them. As I grew in the last year, I learned about manufacturers and how to get things done and what I can do at home to save money. I offer t-shirts, stickers, prints, sweaters, and hoodies. I recently started sewing so now I’m doing tea towels. Next month I’m going to release some pouches that I sewed from fabric that I designed myself. I have some other things in the works that I can’t really talk about yet, but definitely a lot of exciting things are coming to the store this year.
Any final words to share?
I hope that anyone that comes across this is inspired to follow whatever they want in life. Whether it’s a relationship or your dream job or whatever it is you’re looking for in life. Whatever makes you wake up in the morning, I think it’s really important to chase that. Keep that thing in your mind and figure out how you can make that happen. Just take it day by day. You don’t need to quit your job to follow your passion.
Find Jeremie on Instagram @lacomidadejeremie and at lacomidadejeremie.com.