Los Angeles-based vegan icons Heather Golden Ray and Jenny Engel, also known as the “Spork Sisters,” have championed the vegan lifestyle through their cooking school for an impressive 16 years. Recently, they stepped onto a new stage of culinary innovation with the grand opening of their latest venture, a vegan restaurant called Hey, Sunshine Kitchen.
Ray and Engel, the driving forces behind the plant-based food company and cooking school Spork Foods, initially made waves in 2007 by imparting their culinary wisdom through vegan cooking classes in Los Angeles.
Soon, their cooking school expanded from small gatherings in their Silver Lake apartment kitchen to a larger space in West Hollywood.
But their journey didn’t stop there; it blossomed into cooking demonstrations, best-selling vegan cookbooks, and now, the realization of a long-held dream—a vegan restaurant.
The launch of a vegan restaurant
The path to Hey, Sunshine Kitchen was not without challenges, as the concept of opening a restaurant often met with skepticism due to its perceived risks. Yet, for Ray and Engel, the venture was more than just a business decision; it was a calling.
“For more than 15 years, we trained home cooks and chefs at resorts, hotels, and universities. We have always envisioned that we would start a restaurant endeavor together,” Ray tells VegNews. “We came up with the idea for Hey, Sunshine Kitchen as a way to promote healthier eating within our community.”
James Michael Juarez
Their dream of bringing Hey, Sunshine Kitchen to life started four years ago at a trade show in Dallas, TX. “We played with so many iterations of the menu for years,” Ray says. “We had a plant-based barbecue idea at first, but ultimately landed on what Hey, Sunshine Kitchen is today.”
“We wanted to create a space where everyone, no matter their dietary preference, could enjoy flavorsome, innovative, and hearty plant-based meals,” Ray says.
In fact, Ray and Engel came up with the name, Hey Sunshine Kitchen, at a Denver, CO restaurant called Linger—and, ironically, during a thunderstorm. “If you ever eat there you may see the painting that inspired our name,” Ray hints.
Nourishing the LA community
Located in the heart of Culver City, Hey, Sunshine Kitchen emerged as the manifestation of their lifelong passion. A meticulously curated menu boasts an array of vegan offerings, including fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, nourishing bowls, and delectable vegan desserts.
James Michael Juarez
The offerings include the Avocado Crunch Salad, featuring sesame-crusted avocado, dried cranberries, sweet potato, and a cornucopia of other nutritious ingredients. Ray and Engel’s personal favorite is the Mediterranean Chickpea Warm Bowl, with a griddled house-made chickpea patty, caramelized onions, shredded carrots, marinated beets, cucumber, sunflower seeds, fresh mint, massaged kale, house pickles, and a creamy lemon herb aioli.
Comfort food aficionados aren’t left behind, as Hey, Sunshine Kitchen caters to their cravings with dishes such as the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Classic Cheeseburger. For a sweet treat, Ray says their Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookie offers a “unique and whimsical take on the classic chocolate chip cookie.”
With such a diverse menu, Ray and Engel want to welcome everyone.
“We recognize that eating plant-based can be a challenge,” Ray says. “Some may find it difficult to adjust to the taste and texture of plant-based alternatives or may have limited access to these options.”
“At Hey, Sunshine Kitchen, we hope to provide plant-based, 100-percent non-GMO options that are delicious to all, regardless of whether they follow a plant-based diet or not,” she says.
Dedicated to the environment
Hey, Sunshine Kitchen’s mission extends beyond the menu. In collaboration with Friends of Ballona Wetlands, the sisters embarked on an initiative to showcase pollinator-friendly plants on their patio, inviting the community to partake in their environmentally conscious efforts.
For every entrée purchased on Mondays, patrons receive a complimentary plant, solidifying the restaurant’s commitment to nurturing both its patrons and the planet. “At Hey, Sunshine Kitchen, we are also committed to leaving the earth in a better place for our children,” Ray says.
In addition to furthering the vegan movement in LA, Hey, Sunshine Kitchen stands as a testament to the power of dedication, the significance of community support, and the potential of vegan cuisine.
James Michael Juarez
And even though Ray and Engel aren’t onsite everyday as they continue to oversee various aspects of the business, Ray says they have a dedicated team that is hard at work establishing Hey, Sunshine Kitchen as a must-visit Los Angeles destination.
“We love to come into the space as frequently as possible to connect with our team and customers, gather feedback, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere,” Engel says. “This allows us to stay closely connected to the heart and soul of the restaurant while also working on its long-term growth and success.”