Kena Peay is taking up space in a white male-dominated field

Kena Peay is a hiking chef on TikTok from Oakland, Calif. and is known on TikTok for her long walks through the woods, at places like Riverfront Regional Park, with a backpack of cooking gear and farm-fresh ingredients.

If you’re one of Peay’s 201,000 followers, you’re probably familiar with her setup. The great outdoors is her kitchen, a small fire pit is her stove, a picnic blanket her dining room and animals like birds and squirrels are her audiences. 

Growing up in Washington, Peay’s parents encouraged her and her siblings to play outdoors instead of being cooped up inside. Cooking and hiking were always passions of Peay, but she hadn’t thought of combining them until a few years ago. She was creating cooking content on Instagram, but after taking a year-long break to hike, she decided to start cooking on her trails. 

@kenapeay

Poppin’ cans not bottles! Stuffed breakfast flatbread! #fyp #foryou #cooking #breakfast #flatbread #pillsbury

♬ Up – Cardi B

“Cooking can be intimidating to people and I don’t want it to be,” Peay told In The Know. “So I want my recipes to be approachable because I want people to replicate them and people won’t replicate something they’re intimidated by.” 

With a bubbly personality and great recipes, Peay is a beloved member of the TikTok community. But that doesn’t make her immune to hateful comments, like ones requesting she doesn’t show her face but only the food. 

“The whole reason I am posting my face is because this is unique of what I am doing and it’s me behind it,” she said. “I always wonder, do other creators of different races get asked not to show their face when they’re doing their passion? It is intentional that I am in the videos.” 

Outdoor cooking tends to be dominated by white males with a survivalist twinge. Peay’s presence in the field makes Black women relevant in a space that most people don’t imagine them in. 

But it’s often the fact that she is Black and speaks out on social justice issues, that elicits such ire from online audiences. 

“The senseless killings of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Brianna Taylor, George Floyd. There’s so many of them,” Peay said. “If I have an opportunity, if I have a captive audience that is full of allies or people who want to learn more about being an ally. Then I am going to use that opportunity to speak the truth.” 

“I have been called the N-word, [it’s been] left on many social media platforms and people do ask me to stop talking about it. But I’m not going to,” she added. 

Ultimately, what the hiking chef wants is to be an extension of the Black Lives Matter conversation through her passion, inspire people to get outside and teach them to cook. 

“To see the joy of a Black woman doing the thing that she loves doing, like I think a lot of times, we see a lot of different creators doing a lot of different things but it is a unique thing to see me out there cooking on trails,” Peay said. 

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If you liked this story, check out this #Next20 episode on the role athletes play in pushing for social justice.

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