Southern Vegan Cuisine? For Tephra, That's No Oxymoron

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When Chef Shawn Harrison of Tephra Vegan received the call to help open a vegan cafe in Savannah, the Charlotte native wasn’t entirely sure that the quirky Georgian city could provide enough business. Harrison decided to stage a small pop-up dinner at Foxy Loxy Cafe to see if Savannah would come out for plant-based cuisine, and believed he might get 20 diners at most.

By the time the event had begun, he was single-handedly feeding 55 diners. Savannah had come out for veganism, and Tephra Vegan was officially charmed by Georgia’s First City.

Watching chef Shawn Harrison prepare our glorious vegan brunch at Tephra Pop-Up Brunch today was an honor! Anyone who starts the meal with a maple bacon donut is a friend o’ mine…#clturefood

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Several months later, Harrison and his wife Krystal Rodriguez Harrison threw another pop-up dinner — this time, a vegan chik’n and waffles party at Savannah’s The Coffee Fox. The couple topped an overnight-yeasted cornbread waffle with mashed potatoes and homemade Southern-fried seitan, all drizzled over with spicy maple syrup. They sold 100 plates in less than two hours.

When ya go to visit your friends in their new city and you end up working a @tephravegan event and somehow make it into a photo in a special article on @vegannihilashawn and @ksmawlz ????

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Convinced that the hunger for veganism in Savannah was real and charmed by the romantic town and its friendly folks, the Harrison family uprooted their stakes in Charlotte this past spring and moved permanently to Savannah.

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In September, Harrison will help open Savannah’s newest vegan restaurant, Fox & Fig Cafe. The chef says the vegan scene, from restaurants to community groups, is thriving in the small city.

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“The vegan scene in Savannah is exploding,” Harrison said. “Two fully herbivorous restaurants in one year, where there were none previously, is a big deal, especially in the South.”

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“Coupled with veg-centric groups such as Savannah Veggies & Vegans, which is 1,700 members strong and which facilitates change by creating an all-inclusive environment and dispensing practical and relevant information to ease individual lifestyle modifications, the movement is unstoppable.”

Chef Shawn Harrison is whipping up some seriously gorgeous vegan dishes. Keep an eye out for an upcoming article on his food and @tephravegan in QC Exclusive . . . . . . #vegan #cooking #health #veggies #eatclean #cltchefs #cltrestaurants #eatlocal #cltholidays #clt #cltnc #charlottenc #704

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Tephra regularly packs up its Volkswagon van with cooking gear and quality ingredients to produce events across North Carolina and South Carolina.

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“I love traveling and cooking — it’s a challenge to consistently prove myself to new diners,” Harrison said. “My wife and my goal is to explore the country and cook delicious plant based food as far and wide as possible.”

• Dream brunch ???? by @tephravegan + @fudatsalud • feat. chick’n & waffles with gravy & maple syrup, coconut grits, tofu scramble, potato hash, vegan sausage patties, & coffee • enjoyed with @dingus_falcon a few weeks back • . Here’s one of the most amazing brunches I’ve ever had as an excuse to send out an enormous ? congratulations ? to @vegannihilashawn & @ksmawlz on their marriage!! Charlotte is lucky to have this amazing couple -> they will change the world! Wishing you both the best this world has to offer in your journey together! I see so much amazing #veganfood in your future! ????????????

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On August 5, Tephra will hold a three-course vegan dinner; at Sweetgrass Garden in Charleston, South Carolina, featuring watermelon fresca with cashew creme fraiche, canteloupe, turmeric, lime and chili; Geechie Boy fried grit cakes in a lemon veloute with pickled squash, heirloom tomatoes, okra seed oil and sunflower shoots; and slow-baked maple peaches in a lemon blueberry compote with an orange ginger shortbread cookie and salted coconut cream caramel. Tephra will also hold a Savannah pop-up dinner on July 28 at Natural Selections Cafe.

Dakota Kim is Food Editor at Paste. Tweet her @dakotakim1.

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