How Rashad Frazier Went From New York Chef to Outdoor Adventure Guide
The serial entrepreneur is harnessing a love of the outdoors and leading a movement—Black and brown folks taking up space in the outdoors
Alex Forestier, Alejandro Camera
It’s not every day you meet someone as self-assured and positively infectious as Rashad Frazier. The chef and professional outdoorist boasts a zeal and thirst for adventure so strong it led him to launch Camp Yoshi, a luxury adventure travel company for Black and brown folks. Since we last caught up with Rashad in early 2021, he hasn’t slowed down one bit. From Tanzania to Baja California, the father of three is constantly leading the most epic adventures––he and his co-founders have even more unbelievable trips planned for 2023.
After graduating from Howard University in '09, Frazier cut his teeth in New York City, first in banking and then in the culinary world. “I pretty much spent most of my career in food service as a chef,” he says. “I had a catering company for a long time, almost eight years.” As the food industry, and the rest of the world, shut down in early 2020 due to Covid, Frazier was left asking himself, what’s next? A quick pivot found Frazier curating experiences outdoors for childhood friends and family.
Since launching Camp Yoshi in late 2020, Frazier has found himself constantly on the move, yet he’s remained incredibly grounded. Talking to him, you get the sense that even though he’s been incredibly successful––Camp Yoshi has since more than doubled the number of trips they offer, and even collaborated with corporate partners in 2022––he isn’t phased. In fact, he’s more laser-focused on his mission to get more people of color in nature than ever.
We recently caught up with Frazier to learn more about how his experience as a chef has helped him transition to a full-time outdoorsman, what advice he would offer to others looking to make a pivot, and of course, what Danner boots he packs for Camp Yoshi adventures.
Do you feel like your past life as a chef and entrepreneur helped prepare you for starting Camp Yoshi?
Oh, 1000%. I mean, look, the thrill of cooking outdoors, there is nothing like it, man. No matter what meal you make—you could have made it a thousand times—it never shows up the same way. And that's just the variables of being outside, the fire, the wind, your energy, the setting, and the provisions that are available in those small towns. All those things play a factor in just the thrill of getting outdoors.
And you know what they say, [if you can] you make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. So, getting my butt kicked in New York City for eight years, doing every type of gig in the world sets you up to have a little bit more fortitude, outdoors and in business.
What's your favorite meal to cook while out on Camp Yoshi adventures?
When it comes to meals to cook outdoors, I'm simple, man. I'll make a bomb fried rice with the wok, over the fire. Get some aged rice, have your vegetables, your meat. My daughter has a certain taste bud and my son has a completely different taste bud, but they all love rice. So that's an easy one!
As far as when it's cold, I’m a big gumbo guy. There’s nothing like being out around a campfire with a little chili. Just having a warm stew or something warm, brothy, and spicy. We’re out here on the coast, so Dungeness crab gumbo is a go-to all the time. And it goes really well with a beer.
You’ve been to so many breathtaking places, what is one area you find yourself returning for adventure?
Wow, let's see. I know I'm a little biased living here, but Eastern Oregon is something out of this world. Different regions boast different types of topography. If you want to go to Central Oregon, you have all this residue from volcanoes that erupted tens of thousands of years ago and it created all this life and all this terrain. You go further east, there are these massive high desert areas that are just remarkable.
I will admit though, this summer playing around Mount Rainier in Washington has been pretty amazing. I mean, the Cascades, which start in Northern California and run all the way up through parts of Canada, are pretty magical. It's almost spiritual, that's how massive they are.
As someone who has been able to make several successful pivots in your life, what advice or words of wisdom would you offer folks who may be thinking of turning an interest into a business, or just feel stuck doing something they’re not aligned with?
Just don't overthink it, man. Don't overthink it to the point where it becomes paralysis. Just start! Keep your head down. Don't get on Instagram and watch somebody else who you aspire to be. Just focus on yourself.
I think too often we get caught up in the idea of seeing other folks with the perception that they have what you're seeking. You don't really know their story, how they even got there. So, don't get distracted—just start anywhere. Even if you don't have all the skills to do it, just do it.
Has the mission for Camp Yoshi changed since you launched in 2021?
Nope. Bringing Black and brown folks out into nature is still our mission. We haven't changed that narrative. I think it's still important to just keep steady. It's not a trend. For me, this is a movement. I think the year one and two successes really prove to us that we need to stay focused.
As an entrepreneur in the adventure travel space, what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself? Has anything really surprised you so far?
I've learned to really lean into protecting our magic and not letting anyone or capitalism or just the thrill of doing more water down the experience. We're a boutique brand, so sticking to our guns and sticking to what we are offering…
What has surprised me is how many of our campers rebook trips. I would say 60% of our campers are returning campers. Just hearing their reaction, saying, "Yo, man, this is the one thing I can rely on every year to truly have some leisure and disconnect from it all." I mean, I knew we had a good product, but to see folks just coming back every year is really powerful.
Lastly, you’re always outside, and looking good doing it. What’s your go-to boot to keep your feet protected without sacrificing style?
The Trail 2650 GTX is the shoe I've leaned into the most from Danner.
Danner is an amazing company. It's homegrown, it's here in Portland, Oregon, and the boots work. I mean obviously, I love to look stylish and fly, a lot of shoes offer that, but we also want the most functional, performative product out there. And Danner's one of those brands that always offers a shoe that can really handle all the abuse, all the terrain, all the ruggedness, all the campfire sessions. When we were in Colorado, I used the Mountain Light hiking boot, and it got the job done. They just feel right—it feels natural having them on our trips.