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vegetarian

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Black Owned Vegan Dessert Brand Invests $1.3 Million to Keep Up With Demand

Freaks of Nature is a Black owned Vegan dessert brand based in the UK. Peter Ahye launched Freaks of Nature in 2016 after identifying a gap in the market for inclusive, delicious tasting vegan and vegetarian snacks.

In January of 2020, the company launched a new chocolate mousse product and the demand far exceeded their expectations. Sales soared by 200% in three weeks and have been strong since then.

black owned vegan dessert
Peter Ahye

The company is now investing £1 million ($1.3 million) to expand its manufacturing capacity due to the growing demand for its vegan desserts. They also have plans to build a second production line and invest in larger, more eco-friendly equipment with the goal of increasing production capacity by 400 percent.

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“This investment is very exciting and marks a significant turning point in our business,” Freaks of Nature founder Peter Ahye told Foodmanufacture UK. “In the first quarter of this year our production volumes were up by 100 percent, despite being held back by COVID-19, and strong indications show they are set to continue.”

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“We had a fantastic year last year developing a number of great new puds, growing our production capacity and attracting some significant new retailers. We also won a number of leading industry accolades including The Grocers Best Start Up award. Following the really positive interest we have already received for our new mousse and the unstoppable rise in veganism we’re seeing here in the UK, I think this next year is going to be an even more exciting one for us!”

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All of Freaks of Nature’s desserts are produced in its purpose-built facility which is British Retail Consortium (BRC) grade A accredited and is the largest factory of its kind in Europe.

 

-Tony O. Lawson

 

Related: Black Owned Snack Brands You Should Know


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Sassy’s Brings Its Vegetarian Soul Food to East Austin

If you take a step into Andrea Dawson’s food truck, Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food, it’s like stepping into Grandma’s kitchen while she’s preparing a Sunday feast.

That familiar smell of red pepper and paprika immediately fills your nostrils, and the popping, hot oil signals it’s time to fry the chicken. In a city full of tacos and barbecue joints, the soul food circle is small, but Sassy’s food truck is joining that list with a vegetarian twist.

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Andrea Dawson with Sassy’s collard greens, black-eyed peas, and sweet potatoes (Photo by John Anderson)

The words “vegetarian” and “soul food” in the same sentence would cause a head scratch from Black elders used to collard greens seasoned with turkey neck or chitterlings doused in hot sauce, but Dawson’s vegetarian soul food has even the biggest skeptics not only coming back for more, but claiming they don’t miss the meat with her cooking. “It’s just down-home cooking, without the meat,” Dawson said. “A lot of people are really amazed that it’s just hearty food.”

Sassy’s menu offers the usual soul food joint staples: fried cabbage, black-eyed peas, hot water cornbread, and a medley of collard, kale, and mustard greens.

But where you’d typically find bacon in fried cabbage, Dawson uses a vegan bacon substitute – which maintains the smoky flavor of regular bacon – and black-eyed peas’ meaty flavoring is substituted with a ginger and green onion mixture that brings out the smoky flavors.

Vegetarian Soul Food
“Chicon N Waffles” at Sassy’s (Photo by John Anderson)

But it’s not a true soul food feast without the well-seasoned, crunchy-skinned goodness of fried chicken, arguably the ultimate staple of good soul food. Dawson has created her own vegan version of fried chicken and waffles called “Chicon N Waffles,” an homage to the street where her food truck has been in operation since November 2018.

Instead of a soy-based meat substitute, Dawson uses wheat gluten – a natural protein found in wheat that creates vegetarian substitutes like seitan – to create the meatlike texture of her “chicon.” She then deep fries the wheat gluten and tosses it in hot lemon pepper, barbecue sauce, Carribean jerk, or Asian orange seasonings, and after one bite, any reservations about eating plant-based meat dishes have flown out the window.

“Sure enough, it looks like fried chicken,” Dawson joked, as pieces of “chicon” float to the top of the hot oil basket.

Before Dawson opened up her bright blue truck in East Austin, she wasn’t working her way up as a server in restaurants or bussing tables or working back of house on the line.

If she was in a restaurant, she was likely its entertainment for the night, serving up her renowned blues vocals. Dawson’s voice took her around the world from Brazil to China, but she ended up settling in Austin to be a singer in a blues band after living in Dallas for 30 years. As if a food truck owner’s origin story wasn’t already unusual, Dawson never really liked to cook.

As the oldest daughter of a large family, she often helped her mother prepare meals, and consequently any affinity she had for the kitchen just fizzled out as she got older. It wasn’t until Dawson developed digestive problems and needed to switch up her go-to recipes to improve her health that she crept back into cooking.

She decided to cut out meat for one week. Then two weeks, then three. After converting to a completely vegetarian diet, Dawson still craved her soul food favorites like fried cabbage, so she turned to YouTube for help, a move she unapologetically admits.

She watched countless how-to videos and learned to re-create the soul food dishes she missed, now with a plant-based focus. Turns out all the time she spent developing new, meat-free dishes sparked an idea: She began recipe testing for the Sassy’s menu as well.

“I started developing some of the [soul food] recipes and nothing was lacking,” Dawson said. “So it just got stuck.”

Her decision to open Sassy’s fell in her lap when along came a truck for sale. Dawson took the leap, purchased the truck – which was in “horrible shape” – and went to work fixing it with her own two hands.

The journey was fueled by a supportive network of friends, family, and even fans from all around the world, who convinced Dawson to buy the truck, helped name it Sassy’s, and invested in the business, including by buying restaurant tools she’d added to an Amazon wish list.

“I knew I was not going to be able to do all those fancy foods that I see vegan chefs do – I’m just going to do the stuff I grew up with, and that’s the best I can do,” Dawson said. “And so far, it’s been pretty good.”

The creation of Sassy’s was a collaborative project, one aimed at building a support system for a Black woman-owned business, a minority in Austin’s bustling entrepreneurial culture. On a small scale, Dawson sees Sassy’s as a form of reparations – with one of Dawson’s biggest investors being a white, female friend who had the financial means to invest in a Black-owned business.

“Because of her, I was able to realize a dream and open a business that could potentially hire more people, and to create jobs, and to create a legacy,” Dawson said. “Before she offered that help, there was no way I could have ever done this on my own.”

Sassy’s now joins a community of Black-owned businesses in East Austin that are up against the rapid effects of gentrification and its threat to displace communities of color and low-income residents.

Last year, the University of Texas at Austin released “Uprooted,” a report focusing on Austin’s most vulnerable residents, who either are at high risk of being displaced or have already been displaced as a result of gentrification.

One of the report’s several conclusions called for the city of Austin to adopt strategies to help slow the displacement of East Austin residents through a policy framework that could address and prioritize “the needs of various groups and neighborhoods.”

Although Dawson is new to Austin’s Black-owned business community, she understands the importance of the city of Austin investing in minority-owned businesses just like hers so they too can have a chance to thrive. “[East Austin] is still a viable community and Black people can get a hold [in] … the community and build,” Dawson said. “Even though things are more expensive and different, there are avenues for us.”

If one bite of Sassy’s takes you back to Grandma’s kitchen, then the love and passion Grandma had when sharing her secret spice mix or how to perfectly season collard greens is emulated through Dawson’s welcoming personality and warm smile. But this little food truck isn’t just about making a perfect piece of hot water cornbread or the best batch of fried cabbage.

Sassy’s is also a space of fellowship and community for Black residents in East Austin, who can connect over the food that has meant so much to our culture through times of grief and times of celebration.

“That makes me feel really good – that they can have a piece of home,” Dawson said.

 

Source: The Austin Chronicle


Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food

1819 E. 12th
sassys-vegetarian-soul-food.business.site
214/703-6617
Mon., closed; Tue.-Sun., 2-11pm

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Black Owned Vegan Businesses You Should Know

As more people associate eating vegan with health and fitness, more businesses catering to the consumer in search of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy. Here are a few Black owned vegan businesses that can cater to that need.

Black Owned Vegan Businesses

Azla Vegan (Los Angeles, CA)black owned vegan

Simply Wholesome (Los Angeles, CA)

NuVegan Cafe (Washington, D.C.)

Evolve Vegan Restaurant (Washington, D.C.)

Senbeb Cafe (Washington, D.C.)

Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar (Washington, D.C.)

​​Drop Squad Kitchen (Wilmington, DE)

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Eden in Eden (Miami, FL)

Tassili’s Raw Reality (Atlanta)

Loving It Live (East Point, GA)

Majani Restaurant (Chicago, IL)

Deelish by Deedi (Baltimore, MD)

Land of Kush (Baltimore, MD)

​​Detroit Vegan Soul (Detroit, MI)

​​Simply Pure (Las Vegas, NV)

Blueberry Cafe Juice Bar & Grille (Newark, NJ)

Seasoned Vegan (New York, NY)

Greedi Vegan (Brooklyn, NY)

Two Vegan Sistas (Memphis, TN)

The Southern V (Nashville, TN)

Green Seed Vegan (Houston, TX)

Sunshine’s Deli (Houston, TX)

 

Plum Bistro (Seattle, WA)

222 Vegan Cuisine (London, UK)

Yummy Dishes (Mississauga, ON)

Stuff I Eat (Inglewood, CA)

First Batch Artisian Foods (Atlanta, GA)

Sweet Soulfood (New Orleans, LA)

Brown Sugar Baking Company (Seattle, WA)

Bam’s Vegan (Dallas, TX)

V-Eats (Dallas, TX)

Recipe Oak Cliff (Dallas, TX)

Vegan Vibrationz (Dallas, TX)

Soulgood (Dallas, TX)

Slutty Vegan (Atlanta, GA)

 

 

-Tony O. Lawson


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Food Heaven Made Easy: Serving Healthy Food & Nutrition Advice

If you’re like me, a large part of living a healthier lifestyle includes liking pics of healthy food on social media as opposed to actually cooking said healthy food.

I’m trying to do better though, as most of us are. That’s why I reached out to the founders of Food Heaven Made Easy, the go-to source for healthy recipes and info about nutritious living.

We chatted with Jessica, one half of the dynamic duo. This is what she had to say:

SB: Tell us a little bit about Jess and Wendy.

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Wendy & Jess

Jess: We are both Registered Dietitians. Wendy is from NYC (the Bronx to be exact) and Jess used to live in Brooklyn but has since moved back to her home state of California.

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SB: How did you both meet and how did that lead to the creation of Food heaven Made Easy?

Jess: We actually met at a dinner and game night sponsored by a community organization. At the time, I had already started graduate school to get my Master’s in nutrition, and a few months later, Wendy decided that this would be a great career path for her too.

food heaven made easy

Though we went to different schools, we kept each other motivated throughout the process. Throughout this time, we ended up working together for the NYC Department of Health doing cooking demos and nutrition workshops in Harlem and the Bronx.

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SB: How long have you been vegetarians and what influenced that decision?

Jess: I have been vegetarian since the age of 12. I never liked meat growing up and realized that being ‘vegetarian’ was a thing (around that age). I told my family that I wanted to be a vegetarian in the car one day and never ate meat since. Wendy on the other hand, grew up eating meat and loving every bite.

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She became vegetarian due to gastrointestinal health concerns. After she gave up meat, her symptoms practically disappeared within months.

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SB: Many people focus on what they put in their hair to keep it healthy. However what we put in our bodies also affects our hair. What is the best way to eat for healthy hair?

Jess: This is absolutely true! The most important thing for healthy hair, skin and nails is to eat a well balanced healthy diet and to drink plenty of water. We encourage people to focus on vegetables (try to get at least 5 colors of veggies everyday), fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans.

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Also, Yogurt is rich in B-vitamins, which are needed for protein synthesis. B-vitamins also promote the circulation of nutrients to our hair follicles, by making new blood cells. This ensures healthy hair follicles and scalps. Salmon is also a hair super-food, since it’s packed with protein, fish oil and selenium to strengthen and encourage hair growth.

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SB: There are so many types of diets being marketed as THE solution to weight loss. Are there any specific one that you can say are definitely a waste of time?

Jess: Yes, all of them! Kidding. But truth be told, diets don’t work. The trick is making small sustainable changes that add up to yield big results over time. No quick fixes when it comes to weight loss, just hard work and determination

food heaven made easy

 

SB: There are many diseases that disproportionately affect Black communities. Which do you tackle the most in your practice.

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Jess: We see a lot of diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and increasingly more Gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome.

7055_887575971269707_802776223293095115_nSB: What is the best advice you would give to someone who is just starting their journey to living a healthier lifestyle?

Jess: Start small. It’s always best to do small and attainable goals that add up and lead to big results over time. For folks who want a little more guidance, we will be publishing 28 Day Plant Powered Health Reboot Cookbook, which helps you create a more structured healthy eating plan for a month. With this book, you can fully dive in to a healthy diet with structure.

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Visit Wendy & Jess at  www.foodheavenmadeeasy.com for tips and tricks for delicious living and their monthly nutrition podcast. For those interested in personalized nutrition counseling, contact Jess via her website.

 

-Tony O. Lawson (@thebusyafrican)