Inspired by a family member impacted by diabetes, this self-proclaimed “glammed-up hippie” shares her vegan soul food as a healthy alternative.
What’s your background?
Before entering the culinary field, I was in nursing. I’m originally from Avondale, which is a big part of what made me want to start Imani’s Vegan Soul Kitchen. We didn’t have places to eat any food of value. We had corner stores with chips, pop, and candy, but diabetes and heart diseases are also very prevalent. It became a big deal to do something for Avondale.
What sparked your interest in veganism?
[I saw] YouTube videos [that] suggested a seven-day vegan challenge. So I tried it, and the first three days I felt so ill, but by the fourth day I had so much energy and felt in tune with the earth. My cognitive clarity came back, and I felt like because I was respecting the universe that amazing things were happening for me. So I just stayed vegan, and it felt right. It’s a karma-free way of living, and I can tell.
Why did you start Imani’s Vegan Soul Kitchen?
My aunt passed away from diabetes and cancer, and I didn’t want anybody else to have that loss. I wanted to be someone who put an imprint on the world, and I could do that through opening a business to make healthy food good and accessible. I think I’m making my aunt proud.
Why vegan soul food?
Avondale is predominantly black and soul food is popular in our neighborhood. I wanted to take food that’s familiar to the community and let them know that vegan food is not just wheatgrass; it’s cauliflower, yams, and other substitutes. Working with soul food was very challenging, but it was also a fun and creative way to see vegan food.
What are your signature dishes?
Buffalo cauliflower wings with a signature sauce, which comes with yams, macaroni and cheese, purple cabbage, and marbled cornbread. People also love my vegan lasagna and Philly cheesesteak.
Do you think vegan soul food will catch on in a bigger way?
My customers who are inspired will start to cook similar dishes. And it’s beautiful that they’re moving it forward, because I want veganism to become a household thing. I only have two hands, but if we all join hands together, we can push it forward.
What is your ultimate goal with your business?
Being able to pioneer the status quo and change the mindframe about veganism so that people who are vegan can continue to excel. I would love veganism to be taken into a higher consideration for the management of diabetes, as well.
How did the Findlay Market Culinary Training Program and your externship with Social OTR help refine your cooking skills?
They helped refine my cutting skills. I touched a lot of meat, which was not fun, but it helped with learning those fundamental cooking skills.
Do you have a brick-and-mortar restaurant?
I don’t right now, but I’m working on a business proposal to open a store in early 2020.
Imani’s Vegan Soul Kitchen, (513) 370-7810, instagram.com/imanis_vegan_soul_kitchen