The plant-based chef powering an anti-poaching foundation

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The plant-based chef powering an anti-poaching foundation

Nicola Kagoro, aka Chef Cola, is one to watch. She’s challenging the common misconception surrounding plant-based diets in Africa, while also working to protect our most precious resources as head chef for the International Anti-Poaching Foundation. She chats to us about her journey to veganism and how she came to cook for an all-female anti-poaching unit.

1. Pleased to meet you! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Nicola Kagoro also known as Chef Cola. I was born in Zimbabwe, raised in New York City. I moved to Cape Town South Africa for University. It was around this time that I was introduced to the vegan lifestyle. ‘African Vegan on a Budget’ was born in 2016 for me to be able to showcase the vegan lifestyle at an affordable level for people from all walks of life.

2. Can you talk about your journey to a plant-based diet?

It was not a hard journey, once I became educated in why plant-based diets are so important. If we are going to help the earth heal from all the man-made damage that we are all responsible for, we have to take this step. Once I understood the importance it was not that hard to switch from harming to healing. I would like to change the perception that:

1. Veganism and plant-based diets are not for people of colour.
2. That it is an expensive lifestyle.
3. The food tastes bad.

Those are my top three. It is all about learning to unlearn. At some point, some of these facts might have had truth in them but now the world is changing and plant-based lifestyles are taking over. The industry is booming and continues to better itself daily.


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3. What’s your go-to favourite vegan dessert to make?

I am a huge fan of everything Christmas and one of my favourites is apple crumble with warm custard – all vegan, of course. I like the fact that it is also a dish my family enjoys with me – not being plant-based and all.

4. Tell us a little more about the work you’re doing with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.

I am the executive chef and kitchen and garden project manager for the International Anti Poaching Foundation and I also help with community development programs. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) and AKASHINGA “Back to Black Roots” is a pioneering vegan conservation program consisting entirely of female rangers.

AKASHINGA is a scalable, community-driven conservation model empowering disadvantaged women to restore and manage a network of wilderness areas as an alternative to trophy hunting. The program is vegan and is a vehicle for building strong, respected ambassadors to drive a plant-based movement from the community level of rural Africa.

Through my work on social media IAPF heard about me and connected with me, we immediately jelled and have been a team developing and improving the ‘Back to Black Roots’ kitchen. That is the name of our kitchen because we believe veganism started in Africa so we are going back to our roots. This work is important to me because it allows me to make plant-based diets and veganism reachable for every one even in rural Zimbabwe.


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5. You’re participating in The Festive Vegan and Plant-powered Show later this month – what can we look forward to seeing from you?

I am one of the celebrity chefs on the line up for the show. I will be showcasing a holiday-inspired dish that is nutritious, affordable and tasty, hoping to encourage those with plant-based family members to surprise their loved ones this season and put more plant-based options on the table this holiday.


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6. It’s been an unpredictable year filled with lots of uncertainty, but can you tell us about some other personal highlights you’ve experienced?

Some of my personal highlights are that through the dark times I was forced to reinvent ‘African vegan on a budget’ and learn how to use social media tools to reach more people who are not just vegan. It has taught me to be even more creative with content creation. I have been working on an ‘African Vegan on a Budget’ plant-based cookbook, which is coming out in 2021.

7. As we look towards the end of the year, how will you be celebrating the festive season this year? What dishes will you be cooking?

I will be in rural Zimbabwe doing community development, spending time with children and cooking plant-based meals using ingredients that are easily accessible to them. I will be making dishes that are African-inspired.

To keep up with Chef Cola, follow her and ‘African vegan on a budget‘ on Instagram. Find out more about The Vegan and Plant-powered Show here.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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