Black vegan chefs are revolutionizing the plant-based food industry—and it’s delicious.
While vegan food has long existed around the world, in the United States it has often been associated with wealth and whiteness. But the truth is Black Americans are the fastest-growing vegan demographic in the country! Research shows 8 percent of Black Americans call themselves vegan or vegetarian, as opposed to just 3 percent of the general population.
Black chefs around the country have been working to enhance the plant-based food scene by creating delicious animal-free versions of their favorite dishes. Often, these tasty meals are more affordable and offered in communities of color.
Inspiring Black Vegan Restaurateurs
Compton Vegan owner Lemel Durrah has made it his mission to bring affordable, healthy plant-based comfort food to inner cities in need. Durrah explains that the reason he started Compton Vegan was to offer an “alternative to everyday foods that are readily available in the inner city.”
Chef Adyre Mason used community support to grow her farmers-market tent into The Veggie—the only sit-down vegan restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama! Chef Mason has a passion for helping people enjoy plant-based foods in a “relatable way” and showing “all that vegan food can be.” The Veggie’s top sellers are the patty melt and the Smoky Impossible Bowl.
Husband and wife duo Marcus and Cara Pitts say they started Southern Roots Vegan Bakery “out of necessity” because they wanted to enjoy their favorite treats without “the need for any animal products.” Located in San Antonio, Texas, the award-winning vegan bakery ships nationwide.
After embracing a vegan lifestyle, Dion Steele opened Heritage Cafe in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. The cafe is a community space that hosts jazz bands, urban farming programs, parent meetups, and more. Steele says he wanted Heritage Cafe to be an “introduction to the vegan lifestyle for a lot of our communities.” The cafe serves tasty dishes like Italian beef sandwiches and a vegan Polish hot dog.
Reasons for Going Vegan
Black Americans are embracing plant-based food for many reasons. Some reduce or stop their consumption of animal products to address the health disparities afflicting Black Americans. Choosing plant-based foods can not only decrease reliance on medical professionals but help people avoid the effects of systemic bias in the medical industry.
Another motivation for plant-based eating is the environment. Industrial farms are often built near low-income communities and communities of color. At nearly all pig farms in North Carolina, pig feces and urine are stored in open-air pits and then sprayed into the air as a cheap disposal method. Often, the waste lands on nearby residents’ homes and land.
Many people recognize similarities between systems of oppression—between the violence inflicted on farmed animals and the violence we see perpetrated against people of color. Author and decolonial theorist Aph Ko conveyed this best:
The position that non-human animals occupy in our cultural imagination is proof for how easy it is to accept the lower status of some beings without even a second thought.
Whatever the motivation, talented Black vegan chefs are making vegan eating easier than ever by introducing their communities to delicious plant-based versions of cultural favorites. And their success is only encouraging more Black entrepreneurs, investors, and chefs to join in.
Looking for more incredible Black vegan businesses to support? Here are seven!