Souley Vegan may have started with whatever few dollars founder Chef Tamearra Dyson had in her bank account. But, the Creole vegan brand took off.
Dyson, a single mom who was one pre-requirement away from nursing school took a chance and opened in 2009. She had zero restaurant industry experience, but it didn’t stop her.
PHOTO: FOOD NETWORK. Contender Tamearra Dyson enters the kitchen, as seen on Beat Bobby Flay, Season 30.
In fall 2021, her hard work and expansion to other markets (LA, Las Vegas and San Francisco) was noticed by the team at Food Network’s popular show, Beat Bobby Flay.
Every episode pits two chefs against each other, creating a dish with a secret ingredient chosen by Flay. Then, the winner of the round goes on to pick a dish and compete against Flay. To win the episode, three judges pick their favorite dish between the competitor and Flay.
Following an extensive interview process, Dyson and her son headed to New York City late fall to compete on the show. Her episode, “A Deal to Beat Bobby Flay” aired Thurs., Jan. 20.
She faced off against Adyre Mason of The Veggie, in Huntsville, Ala. After winning that round, Dyson and Flay went head-to-head to make Dyson’s dish of choice — burgers.
The chef beat Flay with all three judges unanimously choosing her dish. The Souley Vegan founder is the first vegan chef to ever beat the iconic star.
We chatted with Dyson about her win.
Editor’s note: this episode was especially fun and special to watch Flay make vegan food and talk about it. And Dyson, well, she steals the show.
Tamearra Dyson is the first vegan chef to ever win on Beat Bobby Flay
PHOTO: FOOD NETWORK
What initially went through your head when you were asked to appear on Beat Bobby Flay?
I was going through so much with the business that I considered not going. It was my first competition and I was like ‘ok’. I think I was so overwhelmed with the things that were happening with [Souley Vegan] and my responsibilities, that I was like ‘I don’t know if I can dedicate my space to this.’
But, I went and I am so happy I did.
The thing about that scenario is that it’s pretty much the structure of my life. I go in the direction of the most resistance, so to speak. And then, when I do that and I challenge myself and I trust the process and I don’t let myself get in the way, I am triumphant. This was an incredible experience. I would have been a fool to miss it.
What were your thoughts when you beat Chef Adyre and were told you were going to cook against Bobby?
My very thought — no lie — was that I’m going to kick Bobby’s ass. At that point, we had to make what I chose and I knew it was going to be a burger.
As the judges were trying your food, what were you thinking?
I was so laser-focused on every single thing they were saying. Their facial expressions, if they were going in for a second bite, which they did. And, that’s how I am about my craft anyway. I was laser-focused on them and their reaction and I listened to them critique the burger.
How did you feel when they picked you?
PHOTO: TAMEARRA DYSON
That was a feeling I’ve never felt before in my life. I was so elated; I could have jumped through the roof. It was an amazing feeling and the fact that it was unanimous and all the judges voted for me … I can’t describe the way I felt other than I was on top of the world.
What did Bobby say to you when you won?
Bobby said this was literally the best episode they ever filmed and my energy filled this entire place. I love Bobby so much, I have such a professional crush on him, and just to have him in recognize me in that way, I felt like crying.
After Bobby said that to me, he took off his apron and put it on me and proceeded to tie it. He took a few minutes to tie it, to make sure it was tied. The producers and everyone around said that was first time in history he’s done that.
What does it mean that a vegan chef beat Bobby?
I think that Souley Vegan, our whole concept and kind of me starting it before vegan was cool, before they understood and really loved vegan food, we weathered the storm of the teaching curve we had to do. This, in a similar way, is trailblazing. It’s helping to pave the way for others.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to others out there reading this?
follow your dreams and go in the direction of the most resistance. That’s the only way you’ll find out who you are and what you’re capable of.
Check when the episode airs on Food Network.
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