Deep in the heart of Texas, chef Cynthia Nevels and her food truck Soulgood are bringing serious plant-based food to a region known for its barbecued meats. The chef began crafting her recipes in 2012, and, in 2014, participated in pop-up events and the Dallas Farmers Market. The Soulgood truck launched in November 2016, and in less than two years, Nevels has been featured on television program Harry and will be serving vegan food at this year’s National Football League (NFL) draft. VegNews caught up with Nevels to learn how plant-based eating is starting to reach communities not known for being vegan friendly.
VegNews: What has been the overall reception of the truck?
Cynthia Nevels: When we first launched at the Dallas Farmers Market, we were the only truck offering this type of food. We did a lot of marketing and found a lot of people were looking and happy to find options. They often said how it was hard to find stuff they could eat at the market and in general. A lot of folks would purposely look for us and a few people hugged me. One lady even cried because it’s so hard to find food options that taste good that were healthy. I often have this type of experience from customers about their struggles and difficulties as they are transitioning. These things can be expensive, and I may not make the bottom-line that other trucks make, but the access for many people and to be fair is much much more important to me.
VN: How did you get the job with the NFL?
CN: They put out a call for vendors who wanted to be a part of the experience, and two customers reached out to me on Facebook and sent me the links. Also, another editor who did a feature on me two years ago encouraged me to apply, so it was more a request for the people. Since this is an event with 35,000 people, I had to ask myself if I was ready at this stage. I love challenges, and based on the email I got from the coordinator and their excitement about having this type of food, I knew it was the right decision for me. It’s like the Super Bowl for me.
VN: What was it like being on Harry?
CN: I am a huge fan and always have been of him as an actor and musician. When I got the email from NBC/Universal, I was like, “Yeah, right.” After research, I responded back, and they said they loved my story and that Harry Connick, Jr. was doing a feature on women who were changing the world. The experience allowed me to share my story on a national level. The engagement I had with him and his entire staff was so amazing. They hugged me, and we shared a personal moment where Harry whispered in my ear and told me words of encouragement. It was a private moment off camera, and it gave me that boost, especially for those moments when you are second guessing yourself. It was an affirmation, and after the show aired, all the motivational feedback I got from people around the country … there’s nothing better than that.
VN: Five percent of your gross sales goes to cystic fibrosis research, right?
CN: I donate to two non-profits. The first is the Kids Environmental Education Network, located in Ft. Worth. They take kids from impoverished neighborhoods or food deserts and give them cameras and let them explore and learn about healthy eating. These women are in their 70s still doing this work. The other portion goes toward finding a cure for cystic fibrosis or helping the families as they are going through the struggles with this disease.
Cametria Hill is the author of the newly released A Southern Girl’s Guide to Plant-Based Eating: Recipes from the Vegan Soul that Won’t Make You Broke, a plant-based eating and living guide filled with support, advice, and dozens of recipes that show that home cooked Southern vegan food is possible.