3 Mins Read
Founder of Souley Vegan, chef Tamearra Dyson just made history on Food Network favourite, Beat Bobby Flay. Having won the first round of the cooking show, beating chef Adyre Mason from Alabama, she faced off against Flay himself. Dyson won with all three judges unanimously choosing her dish over the show’s namesake. It’s the first time a vegan chef has ever beaten Flay in 28 seasons of filming.
Dyson opened her first Souley Vegan restaurant in 2009, in California. She had no former restaurant experience and wasn’t a professional chef. She had been cooking vegan food since her teens, however. Her story is a powerful message about trusting yourself and the latest victory against Flay is a reminder that vegan food is on the up.
Facing off against a legend
When Dyson got the call to appear on Beat Bobby Flay, she reportedly considered turning down the opportunity. Solely Vegan has been transitioning, with extensive growth and expansion (a new Las Vegas kitchen has recently opened) and she wasn’t sure if she had the time to dedicate to the show. Choosing to tackle the challenge, she embraced it like she does all periods of change. “The thing about that scenario is that it’s pretty much the structure of my life,” Dyson told Vegans, Baby. “I go in the direction of the most resistance, so to speak. And then, when I do that and I challenge myself and I trust the process and I don’t let myself get in the way, I am triumphant.”
Dyson described knowing that she would beat Flay, as she got to choose the dish they would face off with. Leaning on her Creole and comfort food roots, she picked a burger. The dish would be chosen as the winner by all three judges on the panel. In a gesture of respect, Flay congratulated her, cited the episode as the best they’ve ever filmed and tied his personal apron on her. The latter is reported to be the first time Flay has ever done so.
Discussing the victory, Dyson notes that it represents yet more trailblazing for vegan food. Solely Vegan was founded “before vegan was cool”, as she told Vegans Baby. The win against Flay on a hugely popular show is another way that Dyson is helping to pave the way for the next round of vegan chefs.
In 2020 it was reported that Flay wins approximately 66 percent of the time. Chefs are judicious about choosing dishes that he will be less experienced with than themselves. Regardless, a two-thirds winning average is not to be underestimated and Dyson is the only vegan chef to ever beat him. The episode featuring Dyson was the first 100 percent plant-based instalment in the history of the show.
Vegan chefs bringing the heat
Watching triumphant plant-based cooks surpassing industry icons inspires culinary experimentation in the home. A host of vegan figures are releasing cookbooks that offer opportunities to embrace entirely new cuisines, as well as cultures.
Earlier this year, celebrity vegan chef Priyanka Naik unveiled her new book The Modern Tiffin: On-The-Go Vegan Dishes With Global Flair. Filled with transportable plant-based Indian recipes that she has developed, the book takes readers on a journey through her childhood, favourite ingredients and the rich history of Tiffin boxes.
Last year, animal rights activist and musician Moby released a tome of his own. The Little Pine Cookbook: modern plant-based comfort was packed with 125 recipes from his former restaurant. What makes the book interesting, apart from the tasty dishes, is that all proceeds from sales are being donated to causes that directly benefit animals.
Lead photo by Food Network.