Catching Up With Vegan Chef Ayinde Howell!
It's been a while since I've brought you an interview and I am more than thrilled to have gotten a chance to catch up with the ever so busy Chef Ayinde Howell! Ayinde is a lifelong vegan (yes, you heard that right, since the womb!) and acclaimed chef and he answered a few questions about growing up vegan, his type of activism, and his successful pop-up restaurant Wildflower! Check it out!
Ayinde on Growing Up Vegan:
It was what you would imagine it to be, it was rough. When I was growing up there was no Whole Foods, you went to a Co-Op, but my parents made a commitment to it. They cooked every day and we didn’t eat out that much. I rebelled in many different ways growing up, but food was not one of them, I happened to like what we ate at home. To me it's (veganism) is normal. I don't know what I'm missing, so I don't miss it.
Ayinde on His Type of Activism:
Food is my activism and another reason behind Wildflower, I am able to take it to the people. I can show people that you can have good food and have it be healthy. There is a lot of bad vegan food out there, cheap stuff like soy protein isolate which isn't healthy. It's either meat or fake meat and it shouldn't have to be that way and it's not that way. People are like this tastes just like chicken and that's weird to me, what are you doing to the soybean to make it taste like chicken? There is a whole other thing you can do pertaining to veganism. I'm not the one that can tell you how hard it was to kick the cheese habit, but I can tell you how amazing I can make you some enchiladas so you don't miss the cheese. Classic cuisine is salt, pepper, butter, milk and meat, all those things have their own flavor so that's the experience. When you take those things away you have to create a new experience for people.
Ayinde on His Pop-Up Restaurant Wildflower:
Wildflower started after working around New York City as a chef and I hadn’t had a chance to do my thing. I was working for other people and creating dishes around their parameters. I wanted to bring what I’m known for to Manhattan. I’ve been in and out of the industry off and on since I was thirteen, I was born into it. The pop-up thing came along and I found it to be an interesting idea. You don’t have to get a half-million dollar loan to start a brick and mortar (restaurant). I find with the pop-up concept you get to showcase your stuff a little more and I did it in an elaborate way, I did five menus in three days , three dinners and two brunches. I wanted to do something different each day since I was open for the three days. I wanted to give people a reason to come back and provide different experiences and we saw about 500 people. It was very successful and I was very happy with it so I wanted to do it again. This was the first all vegan pop-up in New York so it got a lot of attention. The next one I did was for Fashion's Night Out at Bendel's in New York, we did a Superbowl party in Brooklyn earlier this year and Cinco De Mayo in San Francisco. The ultimate goal is a brick and mortar (restaurant) at some point.
Thanks for the great chat Ayinde!
Want to learn more and keep up with Ayinde? Check him out on www.ieatgrass.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter! You can also try some of his recipes at home by checking out his feature in the September issue of Essence magazine!