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Life and Religion

No animals allowed in vegan advocate's culinary world
No meat, no problem for Chef Joya
Published Monday, June 3, 2019 9:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Vegan advocate Chef Joya, center, lives and cooks with by a basic rule: don't eat anything with a face. That means no animal-based food.

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Don’t eat anything with a face.

At least that is how Chef Joya defines veganism. The Charlotte personal chef loves pushing the boundaries of what people consider normal vegan food on The Creatives podcast last week to discuss her new cookbook, which comes out this fall, and more.

“My mom always told people, ‘don’t eat anything with a face,’” Chef Joya said. “Any animal byproducts—if it had a face, don’t eat it. That pretty much sums up what being vegan is. There are different levels to veganism. You can go as far as not eating any animal byproducts—no cheese, dairy, anything like that. Not wearing any animal products. It’s a lot of different levels. The basic one is no animals.”

Chef Joya considers herself a plant-based vegan. She became vegan at age 7, when it was considered being vegetarian. Eating out was nearly impossible, and products available at the supermarket were difficult as well.

“It was very different growing up,” Chef Joya said. “I kind of stay along the lines that my parents taught me, which was pretty much what we put inside of our bodies. I really don’t even wear animal products anymore, either. It’s kind of had this trickle-down effect of being more conscious of the things that you wear and the things that you do, because of the lifestyle.”

Chef Joya has the ability to create cuisine that may be vegan, but it resembles food with animal byproducts—for instance, her sliders.

“People ask me, ‘how do you do it?’” Chef Joya said. “It’s magic. I really don’t know. Something just comes over me, and it’s like, ta-da!”
Her ability to craft familiar flavors allows her to help people become vegan, without sacrificing their favorite flavors.

“A lot of people who are transitioning to eating vegan, they want to be familiar with foods,” Chef Joya said. “Whenever I create something I try to make it that familiar flavor—that familiar taste. My brain is always going.”

A Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, Chef Joya followed her brothers Jabari and Akil Courtney, who attended Johnson C. Smith University, to Charlotte. She arrived in 2011, and has called Charlotte home ever since.

She will explore her heritage with the inaugural leg of her dinner series on July 21. The theme: Gullah Geechee.

“There’s going to be a story behind each course and why I chose to do it,” Chef Joya said. “You’re going to learn more about me and my roots.”

For more information about the July 21 event:



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