In case you haven’t noticed, veganism has come to the fore in recent years. More and more people are turning vegan, whether for health reasons, the animals or the environment. Influencers like Tabitha Brown and chefs Derek Sarno and Chad Sarno are attracting attention from the mainstream. Social media has been awash with unique dairy- and meat-free recipes, and vegans are finally enjoying the spotlight.
A celebrity chef/author who has raised the stakes for innovative and delicious vegan recipes is Chef Joya. This North Carolina beauty, who undoubtedly creates the most interesting and delectable dishes, will become a household name. Her cookbook From My Ancestors Table: African and Caribbean vegan food for the soul has crossed the boundaries of vegan soul food, from her infamous jerk ribz to her vegan pernil – you won’t believe it’s vegan. Today, Chef Joya has a huge following as she focuses on the celebs as she showcases her recipes on her YouTube channel Say What! It’s vegan?
Can you tell us a bit about your background before you became a vegan influencer and vegan chef for the stars?
I was a professional makeup artist (16 years now) and promotional model. I have worked with several major networks and on corporate videos.
When did you first become vegan and why?
I was raised vegan but when I was in my twenties decided to explore other ways of eating. I returned to veganism in May 2018 when I challenged my clients to try a vegan lifestyle, so I said I would do it with them. It was the best decision ever!
Do you remember the first few dishes you had in rotation when you first went vegan?
Not really. I have always cooked vegan meals because my family grew up vegan. Jackfruit was starting to get popular, so I remember preparing a Buffalo chicken dish with jackfruit.
How do you think the urban community could benefit from a vegan diet?
They can benefit from a vegan diet depending on how they choose to eat. Vegan doesn’t always mean healthy if you eat only processed or junk food. In general, however, a vegan lifestyle is excellent because you eliminate fatty meats, which are known to cause high cholesterol. Also, the risk of diabetes may be reduced because sugar consumption is usually lower with a vegan diet.
What are your must-have pantry staples?
Aside from many different seasonings, I keep nutritional yeast, vegan Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, legumes, rice, flour, sweeteners, canned tomatoes, pasta, and flax flour in my pantry.
What has been your most viral video?
On YouTube, the video I made for Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel using my Mac and Cheez. From my own videos it would be my Chik’n Wangz on Tiktok.
What can we expect from Chef Joya in the future?
So much is happening right now that I don’t even know where to start. I look forward to being on even bigger platforms to reach more people. For me it’s about spreading the message of great vegan food and teaching others how to enjoy this lifestyle.
Check out some of Chef Joya’s creations below.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Chef Joya and follow her on Instagram for quick tasty and easy to follow vegan recipes!
Photo credit: Jonathan Cooper
Featured photo credits: Kristen Stegall / Novice Studios)