America’s mom, Tabitha Brown, ended her two-week Cooking from the Spirit: Easy, Delicious, and Joyful Plant-Based Inspirations, book tour at the Regent Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles last Sunday evening. The theater was packed with a colorful crowd of all ages, and some were even rockin’ clothes and accessories from Brown’s first partnership with Target.
Before she graced the stage, the audience was entertained with music such as Kirk Franklin’s “Brighter Day” and serenaded by Robb LaRay’s “Shine Your Light.” After some applause and anticipation, Brown strutted on stage to a gospel favorite, “Come On In The Room” by the Georgia Mass Choir, smiling from ear to ear. Greeted by the moderator for the evening, executive director of BeyGood, Ivy McGregor, the pair delved into Brown’s rapid growth as an entrepreneur and the purpose of her newest book.
Her first cookbook, Cooking from the Spirit, is already a New York Times bestseller and quickly received praise from of course her adoring fans, but also people who are generally curious about veganism. The book consists of family-friendly, vegan recipes and stories from the spirit inspired by Brown’s health journey and love of food, and includes her guided wisdom, genuine wit, and encouragement. Its purpose is to help readers feel confident in navigating the kitchen and life. To Brown, cooking from the spirit means allowing yourself grace in the kitchen, as she believes there’s no right or wrong way to cook and encourages her readers to let their inner spirit guide them.
When reading the book, you’ll notice she intentionally doesn’t include measurements within her recipes. “I wanted to give my readers instructions but also the ability to make their own decisions and have fun with cooking. I wanted to help them be inspired to tell their stories about their recipes,” she tells ESSENCE.
She challenges her readers to retrain their thought process on what it means to be vegan, pointing out that most of them should already have the ingredients in their kitchen cabinets – underscoring that veganism isn’t as taboo as one may think. Brown hand-picked some of her favorite childhood meals and changed them into vegan recipes. Like her mother’s pot roast and meatloaf. “For us, food is memories, right? Food is always connected to something,” she says. Brown remembered as a child waking up to the smell of the pot roast her mother used to make, so she put a vegan version of the recipe within her book. “I missed her recipe. So when I discovered I could do a pot roast using jackfruit, I had to include it. It’s just such a great memory.”
The viral sensation also highlights traditional meals within her book, like pizza, cheeseburgers, and sloppy joes, as she knows most of her audience isn’t vegan. “We can have anything non-vegans eat,” she says. Her supporters are receptive to her approach of spoon-feeding veganism to those who aren’t ordinarily plant-based. “I’m not vegan. However, she changed my perception of veganism because of how she prepared her food and made it fun,” said Sharika Grimes, a fan in the audience.
Brown hasn’t always been vegan. In 2016, she suffered from undiagnosed chronic migraines and pain, eventually leading to anxiety and depression. “I didn’t go vegan because I didn’t like how non-vegan food tasted, so I had to make sure that my food tastes just as good,” Brown admitted. It wasn’t until she watched the Netflix documentary, What the Health, which takes an investigative look at the intersection between diet and disease in America, she decided to give a vegan lifestyle a chance. Thirty days later, the headaches, fatigue, and pain went away. That’s when she committed to her vegan lifestyle and embarked on a mission to spread the gospel to others. Her cookbook emphasizes the importance of prioritizing health by leveraging a plant-based diet. “A lot of times, we tend to be reactive instead of proactive. I encourage my readers to be proactive with their life and health. Veganism changed and saved my life. It made me healthy and wealthy, thank Jesus! After being sick for so long. It is the only thing that cured me.”
It’s essential to Brown that her fans and new audiences understand that they can still have their favorite meals even with a plant-based recipe. But flavor still does matter. A pro tip from Brown: leverage seasonings, especially garlic powder, her favorite. Another piece of sage advice from her is never to give up in the kitchen or life. “I learned how to trust myself in the kitchen. To never give up. Even if I didn’t know how to do it the first time, I was consistent,” she says.
Not only is she consistently making her mark within the kitchen and motivating others to do the same, but she’s also expanding her career path. Although her first restaurant, Kale My Name, in Los Angeles, permanently closed earlier this year, she’s hopeful about new beginnings. “Unfortunately, we had to shut it down [Kale My Name] because the building had many issues, and we could not agree with our landlord. It’s still heartbreaking, but I may have something new coming soon,” she revealed.
Season two of her YouTube Originals series, Tab Time, produced by Kids at Play and Scale Productions, returned on October 14th, but she has other business ventures brewing. Brown hinted at her next partnership with Target being food and entertainment related. She also gave ESSENCE several exclusive updates: she’s writing a couple of books in the lifestyle and wellness space and has been approached several times to develop a talk show. Donna’s Recipe, her haircare line, will also launch new dessert-themed products online this winter.
What continues to guide Brown through her professional endeavors is the light within her. To close out her last book-tour event, McGregor asked the set crew to dim the house lights in the theater and prompted the audience to turn their cellphone flashlights on and direct the phones toward Brown. McGregor said, “Every single light represents a person’s life you changed.”
Order Brown’s New York Times bestselling cookbook Cooking from the Spirit: Easy, Delicious, and Joyful Plant-Based Inspirations