Interview with Vegan Chef Ayinde Howell + A Recipe for Cornbread
1. You’re launching your very own vegan food truck on Kickstarter. Can you tell me what we can expect from The Mac Truck?
The Mac Truck is going to specialize in MAC & Yease, an old Howell family recipe with my twist. I’ll make the classic version, the Balsamic Truffle MAC, and the Buffalo MAC. I also plan offer my waffle brunch on weekends adding waffles and the savory MAC for great hangover food. I will add some items from my beverage menu such as agave lemonade and the ABM (angry black man), which is Mate and hibiscus. It’s called that because I get mad when I don’t have my mate. (Click here to learn more about the Kickstarter project!)
2. You spent last year as India.Arie’s personal chef. What was that experience like? What were some of her favorite meals?
Last year was a blur. I think when you experience so many different cities and landscapes in such a short period of time it makes you just shift from excited to like whatever Cleveland I’ll be gone in a few hours. She really liked my mung bean tacos, braised tempeh, French lentil soup, and crab cakes, to name a few.
3. Now I know you won’t give us the recipe for Mac & Yease since it’s a family secret, but can you share a quick recipe that you like to make for yourself at the end of a long work day?
This cornbread lasts a long time and I can eat it with anything—breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Sweet and Savory Blue Cornmeal Cornbread
1-1/2 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon egg replacer
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup blue cornmeal
2/3 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup oil
1 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons oil
1 cup roughly chopped red onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed chile peppers
In medium sauce pot, heat 1/2 cup water to almost boiling (160 degrees F), then remove from heat. Using a whisk, add egg replacer and beat together until mixture thickens. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In another separate bowl, mix remaining 1 cup water, oil, almond milk, and egg mixture together. Using a spatula, fold wet ingredients gently into dry ingredients. In medium skillet over medium high heat, heat oil and sauté onions until they become translucent. Add garlic and herbs and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. With spatula, fold vegetable mixture into cornmeal mixture. Pour mixture into greased cast iron skillet or casserole dish and bake for 35 minutes. Press a toothpick into center and if it comes out clean, then the cornbread is done.
4. What have you been enjoying about the LA vegan food scene?
I like the variety and freshness here after most of career being spent in NYC. I miss the abundance of fresh produce, and the fact that it’s very “normal” here.
5. Rumor has it that you have a cookbook in the works. Can you tell me more about it?