KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Soul food is an important part of African American culture. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation. The newest restaurant nestled inside Downtown Knoxville’s Marble City Market is Kianga’s Kitchen, a vegan soul food joint that is changing the way you see comfort food.

“Vegan soul food, so our definition of vegan soul food isn’t the typical southern-slash-urban soul food that people would think of. We take, our take on soul food is food that actually nurtures your body and soul.”

Co-owner Tor Ajanaku says the menu incorporates southern and international cuisine, removing less healthy ingredients like red meats and pork but not skimping on the comfort.

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“Well, because one thing we try to do – we try to make everything that we make non-GMO or organic, as possible. For one also we want to incorporate a lot of fresh, homemade dishes. So, we make alternative meat but we don’t buy it, we make it from scratch” said Ajanaku.

This restaurant was the dream of his mother, Nkechi Ajanaku.

“My mother, she had an idea to create a vegetarian restaurant or vegan restaurant with me and my wife and she was going to call it Kianga’s Kitchen. That was her middle name, Kianga, means sunshine.”

Nkechi died in 2017. She was a pillar in the Black community, organizing events like the Kuumba Festival. Now, her legacy lives on through her children.

“These are the Accra patties. I am putting them in the oil,” Tor demonstrates for our cameras, “black-eyed peas, herbs and spices.”

Improving generational health one plate at a time.

“The way we are raised to eat, we eat for comfort only, not for health and a lot of comfort has a cost,” said Ajanaku, “It feels great because this was her idea. And she wanted me to help her with it. So talking to talk about without getting emotional.”

Kianga’s Kitchen is located at 333 W. Depot Avenue, Suite 110 in Knoxville. The small, Black-owned business is still crowdsourcing funds for the restaurant. 

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Kianga’s Kitchen Facebook Page: