Go to the main content Menu
Back
Ayindè Howell
Ayindè Howell Nicole Somsung
Interview
Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell

Chef Ayindè Howell on Plant-Based Cooking, Black Entrepreneurship, and Allyship

Check out this interview with Ayindè Howell, the creator of Mac & Yease!

From owning a vegan cafe in Seattle and inventing Whole Foods’ iconic Mac & Yease to curating a multi-course vegan dinner at Coachella, Ayindè Howell puts his all into everything he creates. In addition to being a chef, Howell is an actor, writer, and yogi. We chatted with Howell to learn more about his style of plant-based cooking, his thoughts on Black entrepreneurship, and his suggestions for allyship. Here’s what he had to say!

Ayindè Howell

Ayindè Howell Nicole Somsung

VegOut (VO): You’ve been vegan for life, right? What was it like to grow up vegan?

Ayindè Howell (AH): It was like walking uphill to school in the snow every day. We had first-gen soy milk and first-gen vegan cheese, which was terrible. Today, it is easy—at least in the coastal cities. You can walk anywhere and order something vegan, and they know what it is. Except for the people who think it’s gluten-free.

So, social outings with food would consist of fries, a salad, or hummus. And it was embarrassing to stand out. I was a shy kid, so [I was glad to see] the acceptability of veganism—the normalizing of it. It still has a long way to go.

VO: What first inspired you to become a chef?

AH: It runs in the family, and I feel like I have karma with food. I always come back to it.

I am inspired by the areas of growth I’ve seen in the plant-based world. But I can’t say I am inspired by the way it’s being steered. You can see the fatigue starting to come up in meme culture. It’s like, “Another vegan burger. Wow, thank you.”

But it only shows we have [a long way] to go. Veganism hasn’t fully spread to all of the international cultures—even though there is familiarity. Mainstream culture is interested in veganism, but American burgers don’t translate to Sri Lankan street food. Once [veganism] starts to see a global influence, I feel like it’s going to explode from there.

Ayindè Howell

Ayindè Howell Nicole Somsung

VO: We love that you use a lot of fresh produce when you cook. Do you have any tips for new vegans looking to create dishes with whole foods rather than processed substitutes?

AH:

  1. Hit farmers markets in the summer during peak season and get organic produce. Once you see and taste the difference, it becomes really hard to go back.
  2. Experiment with combining proteins. For example, cut chickpeas with other legumes or mix tofu with mushrooms.
  3. Introduce yourself to the grain world. There are many different kinds of ancient grains that are not as heavily modified as some of our main crops. Look for millet, komoot, and teff. Do your research and experiment. The key to portioning is this: You’re not supposed to eat more than you can hold in your hand. Grains double or triple in size after they’re cooked. Take notes, and when you work with them, see how your body reacts.

VO: You once owned Hillside Quickies Vegan Sandwich Shop in Seattle, Washington. Can you tell us what it was like to own a restaurant at a young age?

AH: It was very educational, and [it was a time] of immense growth. I had no idea what I was doing—I just knew how to cook and had mentioned it to my family since we already owned a business. I didn’t even know I had the capacity to do something like that on my own. I believed in myself, my parents believed in me, and I built a customer base from scratch. As we got going, 9/11 happened and everybody stopped going out. Then, once we got back on track, the Atkins diet came around. It was challenge after challenge. But I made it.

VO: Now you are the founder and executive chef of the vegan food brand iEatGrass. How did that come about?

AH: iEatGrass started as a food blog. I quit my executive chef jobs in Manhattan, so it was a way for people to keep up with me. It also helped me stay on top of things in the food world. It wasn’t until 2018 that I was brought in as a supplier to Whole Foods. That’s when I really started to focus on growing the food manufacturing part of the brand.

VO: Aside from cooking, you also act, write, produce, and practice yoga. Why is it important to you to have multiple creative outlets?

AH: Things like yoga help me stay relaxed and in the moment, which feeds my creativity when I’m acting. When I’m workshopping a scene or writing and get stuck, I cook. That is relaxing and a natural instinct to me, since I’ve done it so much of my life.

VO: At VegOut, we are big on recognizing and embracing intersectionality. How can we be good allies for the Black vegan community?

AH: Being a good ally means amplifying Black voices all the time—not just when there’s a crisis, when it’s Black History Month, or on Juneteenth, but every day. It means familiarizing yourself with how Blackness intersects with veganism. Black people eat food differently [in] different parts of the world.

When I make food, [I want] a Black person in the South, Caribbean, or Nigeria to taste [it] and recognize my blackness and theirs in it. That sets the table for Black people to see themselves in a plant-based world.

VO: What piece of advice would you like to share with other Black entrepreneurs in the vegan space?

AH: The food industry is the last industry to be decolonized from an owner’s perspective. If you have good recipes or a good idea, there is opportunity in this business. We need more faces and talent creating vegan food for the Diaspora.

Ayindè Howell

Ayindè Howell Nicole Somsung

If you’d like to keep up with Ayindè, visit iEatGrass.com or follow @ayinde on Instagram! You can find Mac & Yease at select Costco locations in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and Hawaii.

Allie Mitchell

@alliemitch

Allie is a writer, musical theatre performer, yoga instructor, and walking vegan restaurant directory. On any given day, you can catch her making tofu scramble, scouring Trader Joe’s for new plant-based products, or watching The Lizzie McGuire Movie! Visit her website at alexandrammitchell.com.

Articles by Allie
Allie Mitchell

More from VegOut

See the article this vegan coffee shop is a hub for the long beach lgbtq+ community

This Vegan Coffee Shop Is a Hub for the Long Beach LGBTQ+ Community

Wood Coffee Co. is not your average caffeine destination.

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Wood Coffee Co.
Food & Drink Los Angeles
See the article san diego’s veg’n out moves into mission square market

San Diego’s Veg’n Out Moves Into Mission Square Market

A chef-driven menu upgrade is coming to Grantville’s only vegan deli!

Jared Cross Jared Cross
Veg'n Out
News San Diego
See the article popular portland restaurant sxnw to permanently close

Popular Portland Restaurant SxNW to Permanently Close

The beloved vegan restaurant’s last day of service will be Sunday, August 14.

Cayla White
SxNW
News Portland
See the article lizzo takes on veganized hot ones challenge

Lizzo Takes on Veganized Hot Ones Challenge

The vegan singer appeared on the latest episode of Hot Ones, where she enjoyed vegan chicken from popular brand Daring and talked about her newest album, Special.

Cayla White
Hot Ones
News
See the article tolerant foods adds chickpea spaghetti to gluten-free vegan pasta lineup

Tolerant Foods Adds Chickpea Spaghetti to Gluten-Free Vegan Pasta Lineup

Be sure to check out this better-for-you spaghetti for your next pasta night!

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Tolerant Foods
Sponsored News
See the article our favorite vegan canned wine brands

Our Favorite Vegan Canned Wine Brands

These cruelty-free wines are convenient and taste great after a long day.

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Nomadica
Food & Drink
See the article 9 spots for vegan ice cream in chicago

9 Spots for Vegan Ice Cream in Chicago

Check out these nine places to find dairy-free ice cream in the Windy City!

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Ben & Jerry’s
Food & Drink Chicago
See the article 10 must-try vegan restaurants in amsterdam

10 Must-Try Vegan Restaurants in Amsterdam

Your vegan food travel guide to the Netherlands’ capital.

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Deer Mama
Food & Drink
See the article alaska airlines adds vegan meal option to in-flight menu

Alaska Airlines Adds Vegan Meal Option to In-Flight Menu

The “Soy Meets World” vegan salad is available on flights over 1,100 miles.

Cayla White
Alaska Airlines
News
See the article the best vegan hiking boots

The Best Vegan Hiking Boots

Hit the trails in these sustainable shoes!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Tecnica
Fashion & Beauty
See the article chili cauliflower and tofu recipe

Chili Cauliflower and Tofu Recipe

There’s no question that Indo-Chinese cuisine is adored across India and abroad for its tangy, salty, and spicy flavors. This dish of cauliflower and tofu has classic Indo-Chinese flavors, primarily umami and spicy. Roast both before stir-frying to enhance and develop their textures.

Dr. Sheil Shukla Dr. Sheil Shukla
Chili Cauliflower and Tofu Recipe
Recipe
See the article the best vegan chips you can buy at the grocery store

The Best Vegan Chips You Can Buy at the Grocery Store

Whether you’re hosting a party, packing plant-based lunches, preparing for a road trip, or just restocking your home pantry, you need these vegan-friendly chips.

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Hippeas
Food & Drink

Newsletter

We’ll keep you updated on new information,
upcoming events, and the best deals in your area.

By signing up you agree to receive emails from VegOut Magazine
and accept our terms of use, privacy policy, and cookie policy.

Subscribe Now

Get the latest in plant-based news, entertainment, and lifestyle delivered straight to your door (or inbox!)
Order the magazine!

Navigation

Subscribe Now

Order the magazine!
Close

Filters

Cities

The Most

Writer

Test

Test 2

ddd