.Chef Gordon’s Vegan Soul Food

Vegan mob

Update: The March 26 event at Bookshop Santa Cruz has been postponed until further notice.

From the moment you meet chef Toriano Gordon, his confidence and passion for food culture are palpable. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, his new cookbook, “Vegan Mob, Vegan BBQ & Soul Food,” offers a colorful glimpse into his culinary world.

“Vegan Mob” has already made the list of Top 100 Vegan Cookbooks of All Time on the website, VegNews while Food and Wine  lauded it as one of the best cookbooks to hit the shelves this spring.

If lip-smacking dishes like Ragin’ Cajun Fried Shrimp, Smakarony, Fried Okra andVegan Mob Gumbo and sound worth the trip, on March 26 you can catch up with this charismatic chef and author at Bookshop Santa Cruz for a free book talk, signing and recipe tasting.

Yes, the food sounds tantalizing, but equally important to Chef Toriano is the culinary experience deeply rooted in family and tradition. Blending together fragments of the past, various family influences, and so much more, Gordon’s is the story of a rapper who changed his life. His debut cookbook draws inspiration from his upbringing in the vibrant communities of San Francisco and Oakland.

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Toriano says “people think of soul food as one thing but there are a lot of different interpretations that fall under the umbrella of soul food.” Since his early days as a rapper, a career he began at 12, he’s been sampling different versions of soul food wherever he goes.

Yet healthy living wasn’t always a part of it.

The rapper lifestyle, the partying, the instability, eventually began taking a toll on his health. That all changed In 2017, with the documentary What the Health Gordon says after seeing the film, he discovered a more spiritual way of eating.

“I was always intrigued because it was different, a more conscious way of eating that also took some discipline. It worked with who I was and wanted to be, I was tired of not feeling well.”

One by one he began reworking all of his favorite dishes into vegan versions without compromising flavor.

While working as an Uber driver, he began listening to books like The Secret by Rhonda Bryne and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He decided he would open a food truck and in the meantime use his job as an Uber driver to help reach his goal.

Each ride became an opportunity for free promotion, offering passengers a 10% discount on their first order. He gained hundreds of followers on his social media accounts that way.

“I put it out to the universe, looking to give people a healthier alternative. We grew up eating food that could kill us, I can make food just as good that can heal us” Gordon says. From there things happened fast. In 2019 he started Vegan Mob out of the trunk of his car, began doing pop ups, and working the farmers market two days a week.

With the help of a restaurant business mentor, he opened Vegan Mob in October 2019.

Wildly popular on Instagram, Vegan Mob turned cash positive quickly. People came for the food, the energy, the authenticity and because it was different–drawing as many as 60% non-vegan customers and opening two locations.

Join Chef Toriano Gordon at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Tuesday, March 26th, at 7pm.


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