For the first time on TV, a vegan chef dethroned celebrity chef Bobby Flay. On January 21, the Food Network aired a historic episode of Beat Bobby Flay where two vegan chefs challenged Flay. The show featured chefs Tamearra Dyson and Adyre Mason and marked the first fully plant-based episode in its 30 season run. The two chefs faced off against Bobby Flay, and Dyson successfully beat him in his own kitchen.
Dyson and Mason showcased their innovative vegan cooking techniques throughout the episode, but Dyson’s vegan etouffee propelled her to the final round. When facing off against Flay, the self-taught chef created a seitan-based double-decker burger served with dairy-free cheese and fresh pickles. The vegan burger secured her spot as the first vegan chef to win the cooking competition show while Flay’s smokehouse vegan patties fell to pieces.
The episode featured a star-studded judge panel which included the vegetarian Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban and Food Network personality Sunny Anderson. To face off against Flay, the two vegan chefs competed against each other first, using Flay’s special ingredient: red potatoes. While Dyson’s red potato and coconut milk etouffee took first place, Mason’s German potato salad showcased the vegan chef’s creativity and enthusiasm for plant-based cuisine.
“Beat Bobby Flay is one of my favorite shows,” Mason told VegNews. “It was literally a bucket list item to try to be on the show one day.” After learning the show was casting for its newest season, the chef applied to compete but assumed significant time would pass before she heard anything back. “Being a vegan chef, I figured it would be a while, if ever, that I heard from the show. I was utterly shocked when I was contacted just four days after submitting my application. I’m still so humbled and stunned.”
Souley Vegan’s Tamearra Dyson
Dyson’s mouthwatering vegan cooking has impressed more than just Cuban and Flay. The vegan chef has cooked for superstars including Eric Benet, Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, and more. Founded in 2009, the chef’s Souley Vegan first opened its doors in Oakland to serve plant-based food like vegan fried chicken and soul food classics designed to appeal to anyone regardless of dietary preference.
The vegan restauranteur has earned several coveted seals of approval: Food Network previously featured her cooking on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, where Guy Fieri was blown away by her okra gumbo. The soul food staple also earned praise from Oprah years later. Now, Dyson’s proven that her vegan soul food has earned its place, winning with flying colors against Flay.
“[The show] is more than just a competition,” Dyson told VegNews. “I have so much respect and admiration for [Flay]. It was an honor to appear on his show, and the competition itself was beyond what words can describe”
Souley Vegan launched its first location in Oakland, but since has expanded to three ghost kitchens in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The entrepreneur also opened The Back Porch – a cajun bar located behind Souley Vegan that serves cocktails and vegan bites for late-night customers.
The Veggie’s Adyre Mason
While Mason cannot claim to have beaten Bobby Flay, the talented vegan chef is bringing Southern cooking into its plant-based age. The engineer decided to change her career path when she opened up The Veggie – a vegan catering and delivery company based in Huntsville, Alabama. Mason just opened her first brick-and-mortar storefront last year, bringing her innovative Southern staples to a cafe setting.
“We’ve seen vegan entrepreneurship highlighted over the last few years as people have expanded options at restaurants or as companies [create plant-based] products, but we don’t always see actual vegan food made by vegan chefs at the forefront,” Mason said. “This is a great moment for vegan food and vegan cooking.”
Mason quit her engineering job in the US Army that she worked for 10 years to focus full time on The Veggie. She is striving to make healthy plant-based eating more accessible to her community, while also proving that Southern food does not need to be cooked with animal products. By joining Flay on Beat Bobby Flay, Mason aimed to bring attention to the delicious potential that vegan food has, even when taking on a world-renowned chef.
“When I learned this was a historic episode, I was speechless,” Mason said. “All I wanted to do when I started this business was to find a way to keep pushing forward in life after the devastating loss of my mother and to honor her memory. I didn’t anticipate being part of history.”
Plant-Based Twists on Classic Cooking Shows
This episode of Beat Bobby Flay marked the first time that the series featured vegan chefs, but it follows a greater trend from the Food Network. Recently, Chef Gordon Ramsey invited a vegan chef and a vegetarian chef to compete on Hell’s Kitchen. The two chefs appeared on the “Young Guns” season, becoming the first plant-forward chefs to ever appear on the chef’s iconic show. By showcasing their talents, chefs Josie Clemens and Emily Hersh hoped to prove to Ramsay and his viewers that plant-based cooking belongs in upscale dining.
The Great British Bake Off also introduced its first vegan contestant last Fall. Amateur baker Freya Cox presented vegan recipes for classic baked goods. The nineteen-year-old baker announced that she felt “genuinely blessed” to be able to share her passion for vegan baking with the world. Cox and her plant-based culinary peers have proven that plant-based and plant-forward cooking belongs in the mainstream as more and more shows begin to introduce vegan chefs.
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