Although it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, it is fairly common for college freshmen to put on a few extra pounds — lovingly named the "freshman fifteen" — during the school year. With less time to exercise and relax, many find themselves eating the foods that might be the most immediately satisfying, such as fries, chips, cake or even the occasional crepe from Cafe. With the many stressors of being a first-year, it becomes difficult to give much thought to eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Too much junk food, however, can contribute to sluggishness and low energy, and first-years like myself often wish for something healthier that’s still convenient and tastes great. This is where Vegan Flava Cafe comes in. The owner and chef, Yah-I Ausar, strives to make food that is healthy for your body but will still make your taste buds sing.
If you have social media, then you might be familiar with promotions from influencers such as James Charles and Kim Kardashian for the newest hair vitamin gummies, weight loss tea or diet trend. This has made some skeptical of buying products that claim to have all these health benefits, but Vegan Flava is serious about their clean menu: no weight loss tea to be found.
Vegan Flava only serves non-GMO, gluten-free and soy-free foods on their menu. Ausar added that he is committed to “making sure everything [he] serves has great flavor — not doing traditional burgers and fries and not deep frying anything.”
Eating healthy does not mean that the food doesn't taste great, however. Ausar is committed to putting items on the menu that he is passionate about and that he thinks taste wonderful.
“Anytime we added a menu item, it was quite frankly something that I love to make and I love to eat,” Ausar said. “I’m not going to do something just for the sake of making it plant-based.”
Ausar also showed concern for representing vegan food properly. “I want to give [customers] what they want, but I have to make sure it tastes good,” he said. “The name of being ‘vegan’ is on the line. I’m representing vegan food. I think about that every single time I make food for someone.”
However, the restaurant’s focus is not only on making delicious, healthy vegan food. Vegan Flava is community-oriented with a strong emphasis on serving the Triangle and helping customers achieve their health goals.
“[We] match with the needs of the folks who were looking to eat better…,” Ausar said. “They knew they could come to us and feel great.”
Actions speak louder than words, though, and Vegan Flava not only talks the talk — they walk the walk, too. Their program “Being Better By Eating Better” is a comprehensive plan unique to Vegan Flava that aims to help people not only change their eating habits but also improve unhealthy mindsets around eating.
“I laid [the program] out so that you focus on one component a week,” Ausar said. “There are things that have to do with food, but there are also things that deal with your mental state. I don’t want people to just order food from me every day.”
It is clear that this program is not a money-making scheme: Ausar genuinely wants people to improve their eating habits beyond the scope of his restaurant.
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Some components of the program focus on redefining snacking while others focus on developing mindful eating habits. According to Ausar, the program is about “getting people to think differently about eating."
The restaurant also pursues an alkaline philosophy. As chemistry minds might guess, his alkaline philosophy of food essentially entails consuming food with a more basic pH.
“The alkaline movement is based on the philosophy that disease cannot survive in an alkaline body,” Ausar. “Our body's natural pH is 2.5 on a 0 to 14 scale, and we are drinking Dasani, Aquafina and all of your popular waters. If you were to test the pH of them, they all fall in the acidic category. When you look at folks who work on addressing health challenges, they’re going to point you in the direction of alkaline food.”
Though not definitively proven to solve health issues, some of their most popular menu items are alkaline, such as the walnuts for their famous walnut tacos. It sounds like an unlikely combination, but is one of Vegan Flava’s more popular menu items.
“Walnut tacos landed us on the cover of Indy back in 2015,” Ausar said. “That was what put us on the map. The walnuts don’t taste like walnuts. They taste like taco filling.”
Although Vegan Flava has moved to Chapel Hill from its previous Durham location, Duke students can still find them on Doordash for a great price — their walnut tacos are only $8! For your next fix of healthy, affordable food, shake it up a bit from your normal Happy + Hale salad and get yourself some walnut tacos delivered to your doorstep.