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During the week, Jenesis Prioleau-Golden works as a compliance senior associate for JPMorgan Chase. At heart, she is the self-described “Melanated Martha Stewart,” a vegan chef, cookbook author and iSpeak TV personality who will be opening her new Smyrna restaurant, Believe it… it’s Vegan, on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Until now, Kent County had no vegan eateries. Believe it… it’s Vegan will serve breakfast through lunch on Saturdays and Sundays, with a menu that specializes in eclectic vegan dishes. That includes chicken and French toast waffles, egg foo young, po’ boys, sushi and a 48-hour raw avocado toast (the “toast” is made from slow-dehydrated vegetables), as well as favorites like smoothie bowls, burgers and burritos — all 100% animal product free, with some offerings free of ingredients like gluten, grains and soy.
I got to try the vegan chicken and waffles, and it was as tasty as any non-vegan version I’ve ever had — maybe even tastier, especially with the homemade french toast bread used for the waffle that doesn’t even need syrup.
Chef Jenesis moved to Delaware as a middle schooler in 1992, her passion for cooking brewing from the age of 8.
“My grandmother Ruby was a master baker in Chicago,” she told Technical.ly. “She was famous for her sweet potato pies. Long story short, I moved to this wonderful world of the East Coast and I used to sell cookies three for a dollar.”
As a young adult, what she calls a “laundry list” of digestive health issues caused her to change her diet, first to pescatarian, then to full vegan.
“My goal is to just show people being vegan, how the experience is in different countries.”
“In my background, besides being a chef, I have a master’s degree in criminal justice from Wilmington University,” she said. “I was one of the investigators working on Deepwater Horizon, which was the largest oil spill in national history. So the fish didn’t taste right. When I came back home to Delaware after seeing how fish were impacted, fish still didn’t taste right for my spirit.”
When she comes up with new recipes, her JPMorgan Chase coworkers often get first taste, like the time the solution to a lasagna craving — to blend cauliflower to the texture of ricotta cheese — came to her in a dream. It worked; her coworker tasters thought it was real cheese.
She landed two brief stints with “Master Chef,” though she didn’t end up on the show. (Chef Gordon Ramsay still occasionally likes her Instagram posts.) After that, Chef Jenesis started her own show, on the recently launched Wilmington-based streaming service iSpeak TV. The show, like her book, is called “No Meat Allowed,” and it explores vegan eating around the globe.
“Culinary TV is kind of saturated with how to cook, so I wanted to do it where it’s the journey of going to different places,” she said. “My first episode was in Honduras. It’s really hard to get fresh food there. You would think it wouldn’t be because it’s a tropical island, but it’s imported, it takes 48 hours for them to get fresh food. My goal is to just show people being vegan, how the experience is in different countries.”
Chef Jenesis does all of the editing and voice over work for the show, currently five episodes in. Doing things herself, whether it’s a show or a restaurant, is something she’s gotten accustomed to.
“I’m financing all of it myself,” she said. “There were a lot of no’s and a lot of investors didn’t believe in veganism in lower Delaware areas. So I just said, you know what, this is going to be my journey. I was raised that failure is not a bad thing. So even if something is a hiccup, there is going to be something in the silver lining that is going to work out at the end.”
The grand opening of Believe it… it’s Vegan, located at 1 N. Main St. in Smyrna, kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Doors open at noon.