Mastering the Art of Vegan Mac and Cheese

Chef Smoove is a on mission to change health outcomes in Black communities through vegan soul food.

Mastering the Art of Vegan Mac and Cheese

Photo Cred: Chef Smoove

Chef Smoove’s mission as a chef isn’t only to create flavor-packed dishes but to take traditional Black and Brown foodways and innovate healthy alternatives. To him, food isn’t just about nourishing the body but the spiritual and social health of the community.

"My goal is to show Black and Brown communities that we can enjoy some of the same things we eat traditionally, but in a different, healthier way. Because I never know what someone is going through, I hope my experiences can impact somebody to help them with what they're going through."

Starting with slow-cooked marinated brisket

Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Chef Smoove learned about cooking by watching his mom prepare brisket. The art of marination, letting the beef marinate overnight in spice and honey, started his fascination with cooking.

After graduating with a degree in industrial engineering, Chef Smoove found himself at an existential crossroads – whether to follow a traditional corporate job or his passions. Instead, he opted to pursue a non-traditional pathway to the culinary arts while maintaining his full-time job.

"I remember sitting at my desk first at my first week of work, and I thought, I can't imagine living the rest of my life like this. I got scared. And then, even though I was thankful that I had the job because of the pandemic, it wasn't something I was truly passionate about."

Fortunately, he applied his skillset from engineering of implementing projects to improving lead times to the kitchen. With a scientific mindset of trial and effort in mind, Chef Smoove experimented in the kitchen, learning from each success and failure to devise master dishes.

Combining wellness and flavor

Equally dedicated to improving the health of the Black and Brown communities, Chef Smoove wanted to find the equilibrium between health and flavor. After his parents passed away due to health reasons in 2014, he took stock of how spiritually and physically food impacts the broader community. His memories of his mother’s cooking live with him to today, the memories of her preparing and creating new unique dishes.

My favorite dish is guava mascarpone crepes. When my mom retired from the Air Force, she started cooking more – and she started making these crepes at that time in 2013. My mom passed away in 2014. So, it was one of those last dishes I really remember her cooking before she left.

Thinking forward to his future children and the future community, in 2017, he began his journey into plant-based eating. In his culinary practice, Chef Smoove brings together both the spiritual and physical wellness food can offer. Through storytelling, he hopes his meals can bring awareness and resonate with the community.

Building a plant-based platform

While some chefs focus solely on taste, Chef Smoove began to concentrate on translating traditional Black and Brown recipes into healthier alternatives. After a couple of years of veganism himself, Chef Smoove pivoted his business to focus solely on plant-based meals. By switching his business towards plant-based, he found a greater purpose and value in his work.

"I've been officially promoting plant-based content for about eight months. Maybe the numbers have dipped, but I feel proud about the content I'm putting out and know that I can stand behind everything I put out now I can 100% stand behind. Finding motivation is, you know, this is for something bigger than myself."

Tackling vegan mac and cheese

In the kitchen, through extensive trial and error, Chef Smoove produced vegan soul food – with vegan fried chicken and mac and cheese. Now a staple of his Thanksgiving dinners, he hopes the dish can provide healthier alternatives without sacrificing flavor.

Vegan Mac and Cheese is my favorite recipe to make. My favorite part about that was knowing that taking out dairy, one of the biggest things I feared jumping into being plant-based, was cheese substitutes. I was able to master a version of mac and cheese that other people like, and I take my plant-based mac and cheese over many people's regular.

While Chef Smoove’s pathway to culinary arts was an alternative to other chefs, his scientific background has led him to pioneer Black and Brown vegan foodways. By revolutionizing the plant-based market by creating these alternatives, Chef Smoove hopes to bring more plant-based meals to future generations.

Planning a team-building event?

Explore our virtual and in-person cooking classes, mixology experiences and more — all hosted by Black chefs and culinary creators.