Celebrating Vegan Cuisine Month and Black History Month with Asha Wheeldon of Kula Foods

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February is both Vegan Cuisine Month and Black History Month, so in this show, we shine a spotlight on some amazing black vegan chefs! Our featured guest, who joins us live in the studio, is Asha Wheeldon, founder of Kula Foods in Vancouver. We also share a short monologue from Oakland-based chef Bryant Terry on building and revitalizing community through food, as well as 10 plant-based transitional tips from Jenné Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soul.

Asha Wheeldon, Local Vegan Chef and Founder of Kula Foods, on Providing Flavourful, Nutritious, and Satisfying Afrocentric Plant-Based Foods as An Entrepreneur

Asha Wheeldon’s food journey began in Kenya, where she grew up. After migrating to Toronto as a teenager, she was introduced to West African, Caribbean, and Middle-Eastern cuisines and cultures, and the flavours of her life only continued to diversify and expand. Upon moving to Vancouver a few years ago, she felt inspired to create something unique in the world that is reflective of her experiences by connecting people and communities through delicious plant-based food.

Asha founded Kula Foods with the goal to expand the spectrum of flavours in Vancouver, blending familiar tastes with new ones, and truly bringing people together through food designed for sharing. Her love of spices allows her to create Afrocentric dishes full of flavour, from fragrant rice bowls to delicious stews, and even a famous gluten-free lasagna. Kula means “eat” in Swahili! Kula Foods operates mainly as a catering service, occasionally serving the public directly in pop-up and community events. Their creations are available through zero-waste Gomae meal prep services, and also available through Foodee delivery. They can also be found at Vancouver Farmer’s Markets, Vegan Supply, The Juice Truck, The Soap Dispensary, and Spent Grounds Coffee House. Kula Foods is partnered with the nonprofit organization Afro Van Connect, whose mission is to empower those of African descent through healing the community, creating opportunity, and educating young people.

Kula Foods is soon to be offering a brunch series starting in late March 2020 at Calabash, with the goal of repeating this event regularly throughout the year. They are also planning on a hosting a dining series throughout Metro Vancouver. In this show, Asha tells us more about her inspirations and her plans for the future of Kula Foods.

Some upcoming events:

  • Black Futures Gala – fundraiser with partial proceeds going towards Wet’suwet’en Nation in solidarity of their protest to protect their ancestral land and recents, and partial proceeds to Black Lives Matter Vancouver – Saturday February 29th, 2020
  • A Different World Edition – paying tribute to the 90s show that empowered black youths growing up, with 90s jams – Thurday March 5th, 2020
  • The Black Love Series: Healing with Food – join Afro Van Connect alongside Asha Wheeldon from Kula Kitchen, Dr. Dorian Holmes and Dora Kamau for an evening of exploration of self-love, food, and wellness – Thursday April 2nd, 2020

Bryant Terry on Building and Revitalizing Community Through Food

Bryant Terry is a James Beard Award-winning vegan chef, educator, cookbook author, and food justice activist who strives to create healthy, just, and sustainable food systems. He graduated from the Chef’s Training Program at the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, holds an MA in History from NYU, and a BA with honors in English from Xavier University of Louisiana. He has been the Chef-In-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora (moAD) in San Francisco since 2015. Working there, he creates public programming at the intersection of food, farming, health, activism, art, culture, and the African Diaspora. In 2002, Bryant founded b-healthy (Building Healthy Eating and Lifestyles to Help Youth), a multi-year initiative in New York City aiming to empower youth to become more active in working towards a sustainable food system.

Bryant currently serves on the advisory board for an undergraduate student project based at UC Berkeley called From Mothers to Mothers, which began with focus on postpartum food wisdom of immigrant and refugee Asian American Pacific Islander Women. In April 2017, the students published a multicultural and multilingual cookbook featuring postpartum recipes written Korean, H’mong, Cambodian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tagalog, which is translated into English. Phase two of this project is focusing on the maternal mortality crisis among African American and Native women.

During the clip of his monologue played in this show, Bryant Terry talks about incorporating healthy plant-forward eating into everyday life and bringing communities together with food.

Jenné Claiborne with 10 Tips on Transitioning to Plant-Based Eating

Jenné Claiborne grew up on cooking as a creative outlet, through many memories with her grandmother, friends, family, and community. She studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and founded the personal chef company, The Nourishing Vegan. Jenné is also the co-creator of the online meal planning service Buddhalicious, which is designed to make it easy for people to adopt a healthy and delicious plant-based diet.

Discovering health-forward eating in college, Jenné became vegan after learning about how animals are exploited for their bodies and reproductive processes. Though she did not give up on eating animals in order to improve her health nor happiness, both ended up having greatly improved! Since then, she has dedicated her career as an educator in vegan health and cooking through her blog Sweet Potato Soul and activities extending beyond it. Jenné is a vegan advocate who has published her first cookbook sharing the same name as her blog, Sweet Potato Soul, and shares many of her recipes and tips through both her blog and her YouTube channel as well.

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Show produced by Elyse Jacobson, with web content written by Asami Hitohara, guest co-hosted by Grace Wampold, operations done by Carole Davies-MacIntosh