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

Food Features

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.

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.

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.


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.


“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.”


“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.”

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


“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.”

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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