HomeNEWSBLACK GIRL MAGICVegan Cuisine, Anyone? What’s Cooking with Chef Joya? – An Interview

Vegan Cuisine, Anyone? What’s Cooking with Chef Joya? – An Interview

Greetings SwagHer fam!  I know many people are vegan now or seriously considering the switch, but for the ones shaking their heads, I’m here to tell you that if prepared right, it’s very delicious, and you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy it.  I had a chance to chat with Adjoa Courtney, professionally known as Chef Joya.  She’s an award-winning celebrity chef who specializes in vegan cuisine.  Her dishes are so delicious that they will make you want to slap your mama!  She’s one of Charlotte North Carolina’s most sought-after vegan chefs, who’s catered for Fantasia and Tabitha Brown, just to name a few.  She’s also the author of four cookbooks.  Also, November 1st just happens to be World Vegan Day.  How cool is that?  

 

Janet:  Chef Joya, thanks for chatting with me today!  For starters, tell us a little about yourself.  Where did you grow up?  

 

Chef Joya:  Thank you.  Well, I grew up in Milwaukee, WI.  I’ve been in Charlotte for ten years now.  

 

Janet:  Do you like living here?  Was that a big adjustment?

 

Chef Joya:  Oh yes, it was a big adjustment.  This is the South and coming from the Mid-West.  It’s different; different people.  I didn’t want to raise my sons in Milwaukee because it was getting rough.  My brothers were down here in the South, so that’s where I decided to go.  One by one, my family started moving down here, so it’s been a really great adjustment.  We’re still here.    

 

Janet:  How long have you been vegan?  You grew up vegan, correct?  

 

Chef Joya:  My mom went vegan 31 years ago, when I was seven years old, so during my early childhood to late teens, I ate vegan, and then I started doing my own thing.  My parents have remained vegan.  About 3 or 3 ½ years ago, I started doing personal cheffing.  I kept hearing people say that vegan food was nasty and it was rabbit food, and I was like, not the food I grew up on, so I challenged people for 30 days to eat vegan.  I shared recipes and everything, and after 30 days, I just never went back.   

 

Janet:  Who or what inspires you?

 

Chef Joya:  Oh wow.  My family, my children, my mother.  I’m an artist, so it’s a way for me to release my artistry.  My fanbase is amazing!  A lot of what I do is because of them.  They’re a huge inspiration.  When I first became a chef, I wanted to be a celebrity chef and travel, which I do, but the need for knowledge and the excitement that people had from what I was doing was too immense. They just wanted more.  They wanted cookbooks; they wanted this, they wanted that.  Their excitement inspired me to create so much more.   

 

Janet:  And you absolutely do!  Your fanbase is huge, and they’re just so excited about what you’re doing, even people who aren’t vegan.  It’s amazing!  

 

Chef Joya:  Yeah, that makes me feel good.  When I’m online, and I ask who’s not vegan, at least 50%, if not more, are not vegan.  There’s no judgment if you’re not.  I’m a safe place.  We love food, and I just want people to enjoy it.   

 

Janet:  It is stated that nowhere has the vegan diet taken off more than in the African American Community.  Why do you think veganism has become so popular within our culture?

 

Chef Joya:  Besides COVID, before that…..I wouldn’t say popularity; I would say it became a little bit more mainstream.  I would say more celebrities were doing it, and they’re more open about it, so lots of people follow what celebrities do.  Also, people started focusing on their health a little more.  I’m not sure if that’s because we’re getting older, but a lot more information is being released about veganism.    

 

Janet:  Let’s talk about how amazing you are!  You’re a celebrity chef, you have these four amazing cookbooks, you have a YouTube channel called, “Say What!  It’s Vegan”, which has over 6K subscribers, you partner with Charlotte’s Compare Foods Supermarket, you’re a caterer, you offer private dining, you have pop-up events that are always sold out, and now you have your seasoning blends line (Just Magic, Golden Chick, and Red House) that just came out!  Whew!!  I’m so happy for you!  Let’s talk about your cookbooks first, and then we’ll talk about all the other things you have going on.  

 

Chef Joya:  At my very first pop-up event, Chef Lisa-oh, she’s another person that inspires me.  She announced that I was coming out with a cookbook.  We’d never had that conversation before.  LOL!  After that, everyone was like, “When’s the cookbook coming? When’s the cookbook coming?”. I was trying to write, but I had a lot on my plate.  Then COVID happened, and the world stopped, and I had all the time.  I wrote my first cookbook in three days (It’s Soul Mahmazing Vol. 1).  I had all the recipes in my head, so it wasn’t something that I had to think hard about, but it was still a process.  You know, with the editing and photography.  The next cookbook was a grilling guide (It’s Sizzlin’ Baby).  That came around the same time as the Briana Taylor situation.  I wasn’t even going to release that one at that time because I felt bad about everything that was going on in the world.  After talking with my publicist and my partner, that’s when I decided to move forward with it.  I use it as a way to give back, so a percentage of the proceeds from that cookbook goes to organizations fighting against racism and the LGBTQ community.  The third one (Brunchin with Chef Joya) came about because I was hosting brunch events and people were missing those in-person events, so I focused on brunch dishes, and the last one (From My Ancestors Table) focuses on African and Caribbean cuisine.  I did that one because I wanted to show people that they can still eat their cultural food and be vegan.   

Chef Joya in

Janet:  I definitely call that success, but what does success look like for you?  

 

Chef Joya:  Success is what I’m doing now and going beyond.  I feel like I’m walking in my destiny, and that’s what I measure my success after.  

 

Janet:  I love your positive and bubbly personality; your energy!  You put people at ease, and they’re all smiles.  People can’t have a bad day around you.  Tell us what is your SwagHer?  What makes you, you?

 

Chef Joya:  Everything!!  LOL!!  Everything about me, makes me, me.  My personality- we’re all individually unique.  I would say that I’m very bold; I’m very bright and colorful.  I love the glam.  As much as I can burn in the kitchen, I love to look good while I’m doing it.  

 

Janet:  You said you like to look good while you’re doing it.  Can I just say that I saw a recent picture of you, where you had on no make-up and you looked just as amazing as you do with it on.    

 

Chef Joya:  Thank you, thank you.

 

Janet:  You make cooking vegan food look so easy and fun!  I love vegan cuisine, but I don’t love to cook like that.  For us who love to eat it but do not necessarily love to cook it, what’s an easy dish that you would suggest?

 

Chef Joya:  Whatever you like now, find a way to make it vegan.  Sometimes you can find pre-made vegan food, and you can just add seasonings.  That’ll save you a lot of time.  It’s really all about the herbs!  A lot of times, people just don’t know how to season vegan food.  

 

Janet:  Yes, I agree with that.  Speaking of seasonings, I mentioned it earlier, but let’s talk about your new seasonings blend line that you have out now (Just Magic, Golden Chick, and Red House).  What food works best with it? 

 

Chef Joya:  It’s not just for seasoning vegan food.  Just Magic is the all-purpose seasoning.  You can put it on any and everything.  Red House is a fan favorite.  It’s a smoky blend that has a little sweetness to it.  It’s great on mock ribs and burgers.  Golden Chick is for mock poultry and braising.  

 

Janet:  Red House, that’s the one for me.  LOL!  I love the smoky and sweet combination.

 

Janet:  You’re such a success, and you’re so busy now!  How do you find time for yourself?  What do you do to unwind?

 

Chef Joya:  I’m doing a lot better with that now, but before, time for myself didn’t exist.  Now, I break my tasks up, so I’m not frustrating myself.  I go away somewhere (to a different environment I haven’t been) and just chill out, but I still end up cooking.  LOL!

 

Janet:  LOL!  You can’t get away from that.  LOL!  

 

Chef Joya:  Not at all.  LOL!  

 

Janet:  What’s a fun fact that you can share with us?  

 

Chef Joya:  LOL!  Fun fact?  I don’t know.  I can’t think of a fun one.  I’m fun.  LOL!  

 

Janet:  Come on, that bubbly personality!!  LOL!!

 

Chef Joya:  I know.  LOL!  Oh, I know!  I like to do drag shows at my house with friends.  We do categories.  You know, walk the categories.  LOL!

 

Janet:  That’s so cool!  You have a runway in the house and everything?

Chef Joya:  LOL!  I’ll have to work on that one.  LOL!  

 

Janet:  What’s next for Chef Joya?  Is there a restaurant on the horizon?  I tell you, if you opened a restaurant, it would get all my coins.  That is no lie!  

 

Chef Joya:  LOL!  Lots of people ask me that, but that’s not something I plan on doing any time soon.  It may be a part of my retirement plan later, but not right now.  What’s next for me?  I don’t know.  I get so many opportunities, and they come at me at once, but it’ll definitely be something new.  I’m going to be out here! 

 

Janet:  Do you have any events coming up?  Another popup, perhaps?  I know you just did a cooking class over the weekend for BayHaven Food & Wine Festival here in Charlotte, which is a three-day celebration of Black culinary experts and newcomers.  Tell us about that?  

 

Chef Joya: I was the only vegan chef that was there.  It was an amazing time.  I met other chefs and was able to work with them.  I enjoyed sharing with them about vegan cuisine.  It was a really great event.  

 

Janet:  How can people connect with you?  

 

Chef Joya:  You can find me on all platforms.  I’m on Facebook and Instagram.  My website is www.cookingwithjoya.com, and for products and merchandise, www.chefjoyasnest.com

 

Janet:  Chef Joya, thank you so much for chatting with me today.  It’s been great!!  Everyone, make sure you follow Chef Joya on all social media platforms and go buy her products and merchandise!  

 

Chef Joya:  Thank you so much!  It’s been a pleasure.  

 

Article Written by: Janet Downs | Janet Downs is an instructor with over 20 years of experience, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations. She volunteers and is a resource for the homeless community and is working towards starting her own non-profit. She’s passionate about mental health and seeks to bring more awareness to the black community. She is active in church ministry, a writer, and loves music, hiking, and travel.

 

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