#ATLFoodCulture: Talking Cauliflower, Entrepreneurship & Plant-Based 🥦🥬🍅 Lifestyles With Kimberly of Might Be Vegan
You meet a ton of interesting, fun and driven people in the food industry who all bond over the shared love of culinary excellence. Veganism and plant-based lifestyles are becoming more and more popular as Americans take aim at improving their health and preserving the planet in the process.
We meet a lot of vegans in our backyard of Los Angeles, but on this particular day we had the honor of chopping it up with Kimberly, plant-based private chef, marketing wizard, and founder of Might Be Vegan based out of Atlanta.
She was a blast and clued us into her early memories of the Food Network, her favorite spots to eat, her complicated relationship with meal subscription services, and so much much more.
Check out the highlights of our talk below and make sure to visit Kimberly’s site or social media to find out more about the fantastic work she is doing in the food community.
FT: What are your earliest memories related to food?
K: I was allergic to so much. I was allergic to chicken, tomatoes, mustard greens, turnip greens, there was so much. My earliest memory to food is having to say no.
FT: Where did you grow up?
K: I grew up in Greensboro, NC. Most of my family lived there.
FT: How did you get started in the food industry?
K: I always knew that i wanted to get into the food industry. My favorite memories I have with my grandmother were us watching the food channel together, and especially chef Justin Wilson, he’s very southern and comical. I loved watching his antics on TV, so I fell in love with food probably then even though there were so many things I couldn’t eat.
My grandma was always that person who if she cooked, the entire neighborhood was at the house. Holidays were never just our family. I knew that I was gonna get into the food industry very early, but i didn’t know how. I didn’t want to work at a restaurant since I couldn’t imagine myself standing up and cooking in a kitchen all day. That didn’t bring me life, but the idea of seeing people happy and building community around food - that’s what I’m interested in doing.
FT: What were the toughest parts of building a business and a brand?
K: This brand has been the least complicated to build, but this is the first time I’ve had a company that was a personal brand. I have a content agency I’ve run for about five years, and what’s most complicated about that is having a brand that can live on its own outside of you. My background is marketing, so for me, there’s certain things that I already know that are natural for me since I’ve done it so many times for other brands. All the fundamental pieces that come together to build a brand from an aesthetic side are natural to me, but what you see on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, that’s just me in real life. There isn’t a ‘try,’ I’m just being myself.
FT: What are your tips to building an Instagram following in the food industry?
K: One thing that separates Instagram is that Facebook began as a community of people, so when you post on Facebook and people see it and comment, these are people you probably know in real life. Instagram is different since you have your followers and that’s pretty much it. It’s you against everything else, so the key that I see is actually engaging with people, so that means more than just liking photos or following people hoping they’ll follow you back. It’s about being targeted and knowing where your people go, what your people like, who your people like and then going to where they are and connecting with them there.
I always recommend when you’re starting an Instagram page to start checking with your friends and family, then identify 6-7 influences who have between 10,000-50,000 followers who you’d say, “I want to have the following that they have.” Then, start having conversations with their followers. After that, it’s just about building relationships, and you have to be real. Instagram has a lot of fake followers and there’s often a lack of authenticity, so I try my best to actually connect and talk with people.
FT: What made you decide to go plant-based?
K: One reason is just being health conscious. Two, my mother and my cousin being diagnosed with hypertension. Three, doing a ton of research about the effects that a plant-based diet can have on your body. All of that coming together was kind of a ‘once you know you can’t look back’ kinda thing.
I am not the preachy vegan, and I don’t think that every person can or should be plant-based. I do believe that we can all eat more plants regardless of where you fall on the continuum of carnivore Vs. plant-based. That is the goal of Might Be Vegan, which is to help people eat more plants, whatever that looks like for them. That’s really how I transitioned by doing better and then by helping others do better at the same time.
FT: What are the biggest misconceptions or most annoying questions you get asked in regards to being plant-based?
K: “How did you become vegan?” Do you guys know how many times I’ve answered that question?!
I think it’s because I’m not a preachy vegan. People tend to challenge you when you set yourself up as an extremist. When you stand up and say “I am the savior of all mankind and animalkind and you should not eat plants,” people start to challenge you. If you go to my comments and DM’s, people are comfortable being themselves.
I say “might be vegan” because I’m not the vegan preacher or the vegan police, I’m just helping people to eat more plants. I do recognize the ethological impact that meat consumption has on our environment and I think we all need to take responsibility for that. There’s no real weird questions, I think people are pretty comfortable chatting with me.
FT: How did you come up with most of your recipes?
K: I sometimes wake up with flavors in my mouth or I’ll dream about something and then just go and start making it until I get to the flavor that I want! My mother taught me how to cook by teaching me how to taste. When she would be in the kitchen she would ask me to come in and taste whatever she was making and tell her what it needed.
Sometimes I’ll go into a restaurant and I’ll try something and I’ll like it so much I’ll make mental notes on how I’m gonna recreate it when I get back to my house!
FT: I heard you have a complicated relationship with meal subscription boxes...
K: No boxes! They’re not good because there’s just too much stuff you have to throw away. They’re not ideal for the environment and they’re more expensive than they need to be.
The reason that I have my meal planning service is in response to the meal subscription service, which is wasteful with the packaging and the ingredients. If you don’t like pickles it doesn’t matter, they’re gonna send you a pickle!
FT: What are some of the low-key hot spots you’ve eaten at lately?
K: I just got back from Charlotte, They have this favorite place it’s called Fern, Flavors From the Garden, and it’s incredible. They go a crispy sweet thai chili cauliflower and I want it every day of my life. They also do a chicken and waffles! I think a lot of vegan restaurants try to do this, and they use an oyster mushroom for the chicken and it turned out really well.
They actually change their menu about once a month, maybe every two weeks, so you get something new every time you go. I love that about small restaurants. They have the ability to be themselves and refresh and give their customers something new so that you go back on a new day and get hyped and happy.
FT: Best thing you’ve eaten in the past month?
K: That! Fern, Flavors From the Garden. I’ve been to a lot of restaurants, including this place that had a really good crispy eggplant which they did in a tempura batter. They quickly deep-fried it, it had a really good texture, and then it had a veggie chutney on the side that was good as well. But definitely that cauliflower was my favorite.
People like Kimberly make this industry so special. Go ahead and follow her on social media via the links below, and make sure to check out Might Be Vegan if you’re interested in eating a bit healthier.
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