“Freedom is being who you are even when people are looking. I surround myself with people who create safe spaces for me to be around."
Who are you and what is your mission?
My name is Nicola Kagoro, a.k.a. Chef Cola, and I am a pioneering female Zimbabwean vegan chef. In 2016 I founded Founded African Vegan on a Budget to showcase my cuisine and culinary development as well as to actively promote the reality that people can thrive on a healthy vegan and plant-based diet on a budget.
One of my primary aims through my work with African Vegan on a Budget is to spread awareness of vegan culture across Africa and give people the tools and knowledge to actively integrate plant-based eating into their lifestyles, as well as presenting vegan food and lifestyle in Africa and advocating its great benefits - both nutritional and environmental.
My cooking is African inspired with elements of Western cuisine. Having spent my childhood in New York City, where my diplomat mother worked at the time, my worldview and work ethic has been influenced by the time there as well as Cape Town where, while working at PLANT restaurant, I was introduced to veganism and began to train in plant-based cooking.
I work with private clients, from corporate to individuals, who want to learn more about vegan cooking. I have launched a line of customized African Inspired Chef Jackets made in Zimbabwe with a portion of proceeds donated to underprivileged, young African women in Zimbabwe and Cape Town to help improve their sewing skills.
I also work with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) and AKASHINGA “Back to Black Roots”- a pioneering vegan conservation program front 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. I serve as Executive Chef and Project Manager for the kitchen, preparing entirely vegan meals and ration packs for the female anti-poaching ranger force.
Since 2020 I was awarded the Pro Veg Grant that allows me to develop Plant Based Kitchens in Rural Zimbabwe.
How did you get started and what were the obstacles you had to overcome?
I started as a Vegan Chef intern for an up market vegan restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa. I worked my way up from being an intern in the kitchen to head of the kitchen. I did that for four years and realized there is a huge market for veganism in my home country Zimbabwe, so I started African Vegan On A Budget in 2016. The obstacles I faced to name a few were getting people to understand the importance of going on a vegan diet, showing people that veganism can be for everyone and that the meals could be affordable, tasty and with nutritional value.
What advice would you give to somebody who is just getting started on their own mission?
Don't be overwhelmed by what other people are doing or how much they have achieved. Stay in your own lane and focus on who you aim to become.
What are the three most important lessons you've learned in life and on your journey so far?
There is power in silence. Not everything needs a response.
Be grateful and humble with life.
It doesn't matter if they don't like you, happiness is a you thing.
What are you afraid of or insecure about?
Putting myself out there to face criticism from people who don't understand the topic they're criticizing. It makes me insecure because I have to dig deep within myself and remember not everyone will understand me and as scary as that may be because of the urge to fit in, it is ok to stand out.
What do you do when you feel stuck, insecure, or overwhelmed?
I do something relaxing and spend time with people who bring calming energies.
What are three values you live by?
Same as above:
There is Power in Silence
Not everything needs a reaction
Be humble and grateful with life
What is your definition of freedom? And what do you do to get there?
Freedom is being who you are even when people are looking. I surround myself with people who create safe spaces for me to be around.
Who or what inspires you?
Anyone daring to be different in a positive way that is not harming any one.
If you had one wish for the world, what would it be?
More love, we need more love.
A closing sentence.
Dare to be inspired.
If you want to learn more about Nicola and her mission, here is how you can connect with her: