Imagine a plate full of spicy jerk chicken, gooey macaroni and cheese and buttery cornbread. But, there’s a twist — it’s all vegan.
Amadi Agbomah, a senior Africana studies major, runs and operates her own vegan soul food business, KidandFro’s Vegan Soul, at Stony Brook and at her home back in Brooklyn. She takes orders through social media and will either deliver or meet her customer to hand over the food.
She said the idea came to her in November 2017, after she went vegan in March.
“Going vegan has done so many positive things for me,” she said.
Agbomah turned to veganism after realizing the detrimental effects of environmental racism — when the availability of fresh, healthy and culturally appropriate food varies based on the race of the local population. She said that the stores in her area of Brooklyn sold mostly food that lacked nutritional benefits.
“The fact that a lot of black communities have meat and dairy-based foods is sad,” Agbomah said. “As a black woman, it affects me, and I believe more plant-based foods should be available to people like me.”
Amadi began after exploring and enjoying food from various vegan restaurants and cafes. She found that some of her favorite spots, including Seasoned Vegan, Uptown Veggie and Natural Blend, were black-owned. Drawing inspiration from those business owners, Amadi asked her friend who was a chef to teach her how to cook vegan dishes at home. Using what she learned from her friend and from conducting her own research, she started to cook vegan recipes for her family when she went home for Thanksgiving in 2017.
“My family thought it was good and said if they were transitioning to veganism they would always eat the food,” she said.
After the positive reaction from her family, Agbomah thought maybe students on campus would like the dishes she cooked. “Maybe I’ll start making soul food and incorporate it all in one menu. It would be healthy and tasty at the same time,” she thought to herself at the time.
After making her first batch of dishes, Agbomah was surprised that she immediately had “a whole bunch of orders.” Although her friends were her first customers, she quickly gained traction through word-of-mouth and advertising on her Instagram account.
Agbomah said that the process of making vegan soul food is much more difficult than making non-vegan soul food. When making the vegan jerk chicken or “mock chicken,” she uses a seitan dough mixed with spices and then formulates it into a “chicken-like” shape. After letting it marinate, the protein is then wrapped in spring roll wraps and peeled potatoes to add texture as if it was chicken skin. Afterward, she fries them over the stove top and bakes them in the oven.
Much of Agbomah’s business comes from people looking to try their first vegan meal.
“I definitely didn’t expect for vegan chicken to be so flavorful,” Katie Tobias, a freshman biology major, said as she tasted the jerk chicken for the first time.
Agbomah stays away from soy and tries to use all plant-based foods when she’s cooking. She explained that many people don’t realize that they are allergic to soy and that plant-based ingredients are better for the body.
“There are so many health benefits to veganism,” she said.
Agbomah catered for an event that the Cadence Step Team at SBU held last semester.
“I had purchased plates from Amadi that were delicious, so I was very excited to have her cater for an event for our team,” Monisola Oyelola, a senior psychology major and president of Cadence Step Team, said. “The food at the event was equally as delicious, and also, it’s safe to say that people enjoyed the food as well because it was all gone by the end.”
Since she sells her food using social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter — her handle is @kidandfro for both — Agbomah receives constant reviews on various platters.
“I wanted to go vegan, but I was afraid I wouldn’t like it,” a review she received from Instagram user @og.anait said. “But, because of you and this meal, I am confident I’ll be fine.”
The pricing on Agbomah’s menu is based on grocery costs. She explained that everything she uses is plant-based, and comes from either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. A full platter —with a protein and two sides — ends up being $20, while protein itself is $15. The jerk chicken or BBQ ribz platters are the most popular proteins. Some sides include buttery cornbread, baked mac n’ cheese and seasoned rice.
“[Pricing is] also based off of timing and how easy the ingredients are to get,” she said.
One of the hardest things Agbomah experiences as a business owner is that customers don’t always understand that she is a busy person — she’s also the programming chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at Stony Brook University and vice president of the House of Shade.
She explained that in the past customers have been impatient with the time she needs to make orders, causing frustration. She said that she has a love-hate relationship with her business; it can sometimes make it harder for her to manage her time while also working full-time as a student.
“My favorite part about my business is seeing people’s happiness when they eat the food,” she said. “It’s nice to share with people that vegan food can still be good and healthy.”
Besides running her food service, Agbomah also runs an on-campus hair business and freelances as a model.
She urges students to try veganism because it has done wonders for her.
So what’s Agbomah’s advice for those looking to make the switch to veganism?
“Take it slow — you don’t have to cut everything out immediately,” she said. “Try to add as many alkaline foods as possible.”