Interview with Vegan Food Prep Pro Tarekia Nicole

Happy New Year! Are we happy that 2020 is over? Is 2021 treating everyone better so far?! I sure hope so, because the way 2020 was set up…whew lawd! But I’m already claiming the best year of our lives for myself AND all of you so bring on 2021!!

For this Fab and Ravenous first post of 2021, I decided to interview my long-time friend, Tarekia Dentley, who is many things! Tarekia is a single mom, Regional Recruiter for Youth Villages, A Nonprofit Organization for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children, she’s also vegan chef, and she has a Food Prep Company, Don’t Make Me Vegan, where she cooks and delivers vegan meals for her customers on a weekly basis. Tarekia is also very active in her church, and has served on two different Missions trip to Uganda, and then later to the Phillipines. She has also organized and hosted a “Vegan Eats” night at her church where she cooked vegan dishes for a Life Group, introducing the group to delicious vegan food, where for many it was their first time trying vegan dishes. At this point it’s an understatement to say that she wears many hats, but that she does! When she started Don’t Make Me Vegan, I have always been so excited and such a huge fan of what she’s doing. Tarekia and I have always bonded over food, (we will spend an obscene amount of time on the phone gushing over vegan dishes hahahaha), so this business venture happened quite organically for her.

But before we get into the interview, I will tell the story of how Tarekia and I met. Back in 2009, I was living in Memphis, TN, and I also worked for Youth Villages. At the time I was a Clinical Liaison at one of the residential facilities, and Tarekia and I both worked in the same program which catered to young girls. We would randomly work shifts together, and over time, we formed a friendship that has sustained me moving a gazillion times around the world, to us becoming mothers around the same time (she has a 7 year old son, Jasiah who is hilarious and an absolutely STAR), and now we both share the same dietary lifestyle, because we’re both vegan! (Sidenote: Tarekia is the only friend that I have that is vegan. I’m patiently waiting on the rest of my friends and family to join the club. I’m really side eyeing you Brittanii. ;p )

But I digress. Tarekia and I actually first hung out outside of work when I invited her to one of our infamous Halloween Parties that my sisters and I used to throw at our house when we lived in Memphis, and I happen to have a few pictures from that night!

This was such a fun and epic night! So fast forward ten years later, and here we are! She and I actually reconnected again back in June 2019 when my family and I traveled from Mexico to Memphis for a long weekend:

Such good times whenever we link up! Okay so now let’s get into the interview!

R: Tell us about yourself! When we both met over a decade ago, neither of us were vegan lmao! What inspired you to try out veganism?
T: Over a decade??? Yeeeshhh!! Has it really been that long???
Right! We were definitely smashing chicken wings, pizza and hot dogs! Truly, the initial inspiration came from you. I KNEW if you could give up hot dogs, anything was possible! hahaha I initially played around with vegetarianism to see if I could lose weight. Weight loss was genuinely my only motivation but that didn’t work as planned. I had so much more to learn, however, I noticed some other changes that were worth continuing the journey. Then, about 2 years in, I found out Jasiah had a dairy allergy, which pushed me over the ledge. I just went all in then. I was only holding on to cheese at that point.

R: Since going vegan, have you noticed any changes in your health?
T: Absolutely! I’ve struggled with allergies and asthma my entire life. I was spending lots of money on allergy and asthma meds and taking allergy shots 3 times in both arms, 3 times a week. I was tired of spending unnecessary money without seeing the benefits. Then one day, I realized I had more money. The extra money was from the decrease in the need for those meds and shots. To add to that, when I removed dairy from Jasiah’s diet, we noticed a decrease in his eczema flare ups and his doctor’s visits decreased as well. My age 3, he’d had his adenoids and tonsils removed and tubes in his ears. Yet, we didn’t see a difference until dairy was no longer a factor. I’m no doctor but it made sense to me.


R: What inspired you to start your Food Prep Business, Don’t Make Me Vegan?
T: Being vegan in Memphis is a challenge. I knew the only way I could reduce Jasiah’s
reactions and still eat good food was to cook. I played around with several different recipes and after a while, I started creating my own versions of food I ate growing up. When I was able to recreate the memories of different foods from childhood and experience the health benefits, I knew more black people needed to know we could live healthier lives and still eat good food. Veganism, according to research, can help reduce issues a lot of black families suffer from. If we commit to ridding our bodies of the very foods that are killing us, we have a better chance of living longer lives. DMMV plays a small role in helping our families live longer. It started as a fundraiser and is growing into a business I never even imagined.


R: The name of your company is Don’t Make Me Vegan”. Why that name?
T: Some vegans can go overboard with pushing their agenda. We get so passionate about healthier living and saving animals, we sometimes forget how to reach people. I chose that name because I don’t intend to make anyone vegan. I simply want people to know they can eat good food, save the animals and the environment and eat good food that’s also vegan. Whether or not they decide to transition after tasting my food is their business, like Auntie Tab says.


R: I’ve never food prepped in my life! Tell us why you would recommend food prepping?
T: Food prepping takes the guesswork out of eating. It’s already prepped and ready to go
for the busy moms, entrepreneurs, executives or those people who want to make a change but don’t know how. It helps keep you conveniently on track while making the transition easier or adjusting to replacing one meal a day.


R: What has been your biggest challenge since starting your business?
T: My biggest challenge has been balancing all the things and giving all the things my best. Working full time while maintaining a home, spending quality time with a very active 7 year old, attempting to manage a rapidly-growing business and nurture all my relationships during a pandemic is a challenge. My eyes got heavy thinking about it all.


R: I feel all of that! Whew! What are your future plans regarding Don’t Make Me Vegan?
T: Right now, my future plans involve managing the business side of things. Yes, the
service is important, but if I don’t get processes and procedures under control, there won’t be a business to manage. Aside from that, my goal is to create more digital content to reach people outside the Memphis area. I enjoy meal prepping. It’s bae but so many other people deserve the knowledge stored in my head. I want to share that with as many people as possible. There are lots of people asking for a recipe book. I probably won’t make one of those any time soon but I do plan to provide the people with a taste of what they want. Stay tuned.


R: For the people reading this who aren’t vegan and may be curious about going vegan or trying vegan foods, do you have any tips or recommendations?
T: My biggest tip is to take it slow. Most people think they have to rush into it. I DID start cold turkey but if I could do it over again, I’d slowly eliminate animal products until my body adjusted. Another thing would be to get rid of favorite foods last. It’s not necessary to throw away your food in the kitchen. Sell things or give them away before tossing them.


R: What is your favorite food to make?
T: My favorite foods to make are BBQ Jackfruit Tacos and cornbread. These are my most requested menu items. Although they are both delicious, it’s the joy people express when they eat them that makes them my favorite.


R: What is your least favorite food to make?
T: Anything tedious like buffalo cauliflower. Trying to make those for 15-20 people at a time is a lot! I need a team of people just to get the presentation.

These are mouth-watering!


R: Is it possible to be vegan on a budget?

T: ABSOLUTELY! I LOVE to brag about vegan on a budget. It does take some creativity though. When I was in the process of buying my home, I was on a very strict budget. I had $120 a month for groceries. That’s $60 for 2 people for 2 weeks. This is where the creativity of DMMV was born.

R: Wait, please expound on this $120 a month grocery bill. How in the hell did you do that?! Please share your tips! I spend that in one grocery trip!

T: It definitely took a lot of creativity! I bought a lot of foods in bulk like quinoa, chickpeas, and blackbeans. During this time of my strict budgeting, I wouldn’t buy any meat substitutes which typically tend to be higher in cost, and I would also buy fruit and vegetables that were in season. [Fruits & veggies grown in season are typically lower in cost]. I would also re-use the same ingredients and create and many different meals, including “treat” meals for me and Jasiah like vegan rotel, tacos, burritos, nachos, and whatever else using the same bulk ingredients, and I also would freeze meals that we would didn’t finish and save them for later. I was able to make veggies bowls, and remix dishes that were still delicious and filling. That budgeting and crafty way of creating meals is really how Don’t Make Me Vegan was born. I was in a way meal prepping and planning my meals weekly (well really monthly) when I put myself on a strict budget, and I found that not only did it make my life easier, it also saved me alot of money!


R: The people want to know: How is life without cheese?
T: Life without cheese is fabulous! There are very few times I miss it. I use substitutes like Follow Your Heart and Miyokos. These 2 are sooooo good, especially Miyokos salter butter and cream cheese! Whew chile!


R: Which one of your meals would you say is a customer favorite?
T: The Jackfruit Tacos are hands down a customer favorite and the Vegan Soul Food
Plate!


R: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
T: This is a really hard question for me because I didn’t see myself where I am now. I never thought I’d own a vegan meal prep service. When I think about the next 5 years, I get overwhelmed at all the possibilities. I do see DMMV growing and expanding. I’m interested in catering and food trucks and a brick and mortar restaurant. I’ve also even considered Plant Based Culinary School. Or all of it! My primary goal is to help our people understand that vegan food can be both nutritious and tasty! My ultimate goal is a secret but I’d love to combine all the things I love in one. Gotta keep following me for that one.


R: How do you get your protein? just kidding 😀
T: I hate this question! My initial thought is always something snarky but I KNOW I need to provide the information if people are to truly understand! But I definitely will slide in “the same place your animals do…” with a smile from time to time.

I am so very proud of Tarekia and the success of her business. She is single-handedly introducing healthier option foods to the city of Memphis (and beyond), and showing her customers that vegan food is actually amazing and better for your mind, body, and spirit, (and allergies!) She is building a business from the ground up that we hope to see on the cover of Forbes one day. Cheers to you Tarekia!

You can find Don’t Make Me Vegan on social media at:

https://www.instagram.com/dontmakemevegan/

https://www.facebook.com/dontmakemevegan

And Tarekia’s personal social media pages:

https://www.facebook.com/tdentley

https://www.instagram.com/tarekia.nicole/

She also has a website coming soon, which will be http://www.dontmakemevegan.com, so be on the lookout for that too!

Have a wonderful weekend Fabbies! xoxo

**As a little bonus, below are a few rave reviews from customers of Don’t Make Me Vegan:

“If you’ve been looking for an easy way to transition into the world of plant-based eating then look no further. Don’t Make Me Vegan has taken me from a carnivore to an herbivore with little to no effort. There are so many meals that will have you forgetting that its all plants but your body will reap all the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. My skin and my mind has gotten much clearer, I feel great, I sleep great and I’m even down 30 lbs. since I started about 6 months ago. I was a little skeptical at first but there’s so much flavor in these meals that I had to become a regular. Don’t Make Me Vegan definitely made me one…”

“I absolutely love the meals prepared by Don’t Make Me Vegan! The jackfruit tacos and vegan chocolate chip cookies are to die for!! I am not vegan, but can absolutely see myself thinking about it. I enjoy the option to increase the amount of fresh veggies and decrease meat in my diet. Give it a try and I guarantee you won’t regret it! Carla
Oh my goodness this food is sooo tasty and delicious and makes you wanna lick your fingers off…Tarekia cooks her food with love and her heart is certainly in the services she provides.”


“Where do I start? I have been between vegan  and pescitarian and vegetarian roughly 4 years.  I finally decided in 2019 to be fully committed to veganisim. Fast forward to 2020 I was cooking too much and not eating all that I’ve cooked because I was full so one day I shared my food with my neighbor and she asked did I know Dont Make Me Vegan and I said no send me her information on IG.  I followed and liked the meals I was seeing because they were healthy meals and Soy free! Don’t make me vegan has helped this busy mom, teacher, wife, and athlete maintain a healthy weight with the right amount of flavor, nutrition and portions. Oh yeah, I have a mean sweet tooth and love the cookies and so does my family. You will not be disappointed! 
As one of the few individuals lucky enough to try DMMV outside of Memphis, I can honestly say it was 100% worth the wait. The food was immaculate 👌😌 and the cookies. My goodness the cookies!”

I’m not a vegan, but I think anyone who tries DMMV has to at least consider going vegan full time when eating these delicious meals handcrafted by none other than the talented Tarekia. Once in a blue moon is not often enough to eat these meals, and I swear I’ll be dreaming about those cookies for the rest of my life!! 13/10 would recommend everyone try DMMV.I’m hella picky and I probably won’t ever give up chicken but those greens and cornbread though? Just make my own pot! I have ordered from Don’t Make Me Vegan a few times and have always been impressed with the ease of ordering, quality of service and delicious meals. Her mouth-watering images on social media are only the beginning, because as soon as you take your first bite you will know that the food is cooked with love. I highly recommend you give it a try. Trust me you won’t be disappointed!” -Shakia

Here’s my testimonial: Due to health issues I found myself forced into the vegan world. As a lover of GOOD food, I found that eating vegan food often left me disappointed and discouraged. Until I tasted the deliciousness that is DON’T MAKE ME VEGAN! Ms. Dentley’s love and care are seen in both the value and freshness of the food she prepares. And an added bonus for my super busy schedule? I can purchase the meals for the entire week! What more can my budget, time, & tastebuds ask for?! I’m a full-hearted believer! -Heather L.


“I just wanted to say thank you, Don’t Make Me Vegan. I was one of those skeptical people that thought vegan food was not good and had no flavor but I was sadly mistaken. Not only does it have flavor it is absolutely delicious. Please check her out you won’t regret it. The cookies are all that!!” -Darnelle


“Don’t Make Me Vegan is the real deal. It has been my life saver for my busy weeks when. It has kept me from ordering out, eating low quality frozen meals and unhealthy junk food. It’s always fresh and very very tasty. I have obsession with jackfruit tacos, curry and buffalo cauliflower! And the vegan chocolate chip cookies are the best! Can’t imagine life without DMMV 😊 it’s the best quality vegan meal prep there is in Memphis.


“I saw many posts from Don’t Make Me Vegan on social media that had sparked my interest and always admired how tasty everything looked but I had never actually tried anything. I had the opportunity to ‘taste test’ a new recipe Tarekia was working on for her oatmeal raisin cookies she was trying to perfect (she loves what she does and only want the best for her customers, what more could a girl ask for?)! Days before I had saw the life changing clip of her ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies that had just came out of the oven so I had high hopes for the oatmeal raisin – To say the least, T DELIVERED!! I’m not the biggest fan of oatmeal raisin cookies usually, but these were cooked to perfection! I could have no doubt eaten 12.. easily! If your on the fence about trying something new from Don’t Make Me Vegan or giving Don’t Make Me Vegan a try for the first time – take it from me – DO IT! – you won’t regret it and your taste buds will thank you!”  😊 – Hannah

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