When Nkoyo Akadama went vegan four years ago, she missed fried chicken the most. The Sacramento native ate a lot of it, mostly from chains like Wing Stop or Chick-Fil-A. So when you come up with a plant-based fast food operation that can grow and eventually run as a franchise, fried chicken was the obvious choice.
Akadama and their restaurant, Don’t be chick, arrived in Oakland as a pop-up in December 2020 and most recently served customers at the New Parkway cinema. This week Akadama is announcing an expansion of the business, with a food truck that will stop at Lake Merritt and other locations in the Bay Area starting June 26th Plates of fried chicken served in different ways: a crispy sandwich, a spicy one spicy Nashville sandwich, crispy fried strips and a boneless wing plate. The chicken is made from pea protein and soy and then whipped and deep fried.
Her “Gluckoße” is a secret sauce of her own invention – with Cajun spices – and she makes numerous other sauces, such as Thai chili, honey BBQ (with agave to be vegan), mango habanero and ranch can dip their chicken in a variety of McNuggets-style sauces. She also has a soy-based prawn that is deep-fried and served popcorn and prawn style.
Side dishes are kale with vegan bacon (spicy, smoky, sweet), mac and cheese (made with vegan Daiya cheese) and potato salad. And crinkle cut fries, lots of them. Milkshakes that use the Berkeley-based, dairy-free, plant-based ice cream Eclipse are also available.
I tried the popular chicken strip platter. The coating has all the nooks and crannies you’d expect in a fried chicken, although the flavor and texture of the chicken tastes like … a meat substitute. But there the taste of real Chicken itself is pretty bland and it really all depends on the preparation. This fried chicken derivative will most likely satisfy the same craving; it could also serve as a substitute for fish and chips. Where I really noticed their chef’s chops were in their sauces. While some were using a base of vegenaise, she told me she made the mango habanero with fresh mango; each one was unique and delicious enough that it didn’t matter what I put in them.
One who wants to seek his fried solution will be satisfied and even more; The portion of the plate is more than generous. I was only able to eat one of the strips and half of the fries in one sitting, especially with a shake (which I couldn’t finish either), especially since it comes with a soft grill roll.
Akadama said when she first went vegan, she noticed a real lack of taste in many of the foods she ate; She tries to compensate for that with Don’t Be Chick’n. But healthy eating isn’t. While many people like to think that it is better for you if it is plant-based, the number of calories in this case is the real thing.
“It’s a treat, sure a treat,” Akadama said. She plans to add some salads and wraps to provide some lighter options.
Coming to terms with their trauma with veganism
Before Don’t Be Chick’n opened, Akadama, 27, worked at a MAC makeup store in Sacramento while modeling on the side. As a plus-size woman, she wanted to work her way up the model ranks while encouraging women to feel comfortable in their bodies regardless of their height. That goal was put aside, she said, when she was sexually assaulted.
Akadama said she hadn’t spoken about the attack in two years and channeled her pain into overeating. She said it was getting harder for her to feel the confidence it took to model, and then the #MeToo movement happened.
“I was silenced for two years,” she said. When she realized that she had always felt a deep connection with animals, she suddenly realized that her feeling of voicelessness was comparable to animals that could not determine their fate. She saw veganism as a way to express this and to process her trauma. “I went vegan overnight and have never looked back,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about veganism, but suddenly I was no longer passionate about modeling. I wanted to become a vegan cook. “
Akadama had loved to cook even as a child; The daughter of a white mother and a Nigerian-born father, she said her cooking was “close to my heart,” especially since her father died when she was 12 and he taught her how to cook. But she certainly didn’t learn anything about veganism from him.
She started experimenting with recipes and brought food to share with her colleagues at the MAC store. When one of them said, “You should sell your food,” she realized they were right and started a vegan food delivery service called Compassion Meals.
Compassion Meals was healthy and filling, she said, but she missed the flavors she remembered from regular meat. She started veganizing fast food dishes, saying that she had seen “a lot of vegan burgers or vegan ribs” and noted that “not a lot of vegan fried chickens are made. … It’s harder to master, maybe because of the batter. It is also more time consuming and a work of love. “
When she came across the concept of fast food fried chicken, she needed a name. When she showed up with Don’t Be Chick’n, she knew that was it; It was the perfect ambiguity to express that your chicken is not a chicken and that no one should be afraid to speak their mind.
She developed a loyal following in her hometown, but all was not well. She posted in September 2020 a video on the Don’t Be Chick’n Instagram accountin which she said a group of white women made false and racist claims about their business to the Sacramento Health Department and the Better Business Bureau in order to shut them down.
In the video, Akadama called the false claims “the dark side of veganism” and said the women created profiles pretending to be black and then posted negative reviews of their company on social media. The alleged harassment was enough to cause them to move Don’t Be Chick’n from Sacramento to Oakland said in a follow-up post. When asked about the conflict, Akadama became visibly emotional and declined to comment, as she would rather focus on the future.
Don’t Be Chick’n reappeared in late 2020, starting with an event on Broadway Au lounge. It has since done a steady business, attracting repeat customers who Akadama greets by name when they pick up their orders.
This personal touch is important to her, she said, and it won’t go away when her food truck hits the market next week. “I have a feeling that everyone I shared my food with in the beginning is now vegan, or at least loves vegan food,” she said, “and that I could help the people around me.”
Don’t be chick’nThe final pop-up on New Parkway (474 24th St. near Telegraph Avenue in Oakland) will be on Saturday June 19 and Sunday June 20 from 11:30 am to 7:00 pm Don’t be chick’n on Instagram for food truck locations from June 26th.