“I’m Partnering With The Beet to Help People Eat Vegan.” – Jermaine Dupri
Jermaine Dupri is partnering with The Beet to bring his vegan lifestyle to millions of people who need a guide to help them live a more plant-based lifestyle. Dupri will share his knowledge of the vegan lifestyle, to elevate eating plant-based foods to a "creative act."
A Grammy-award winning writer and producer for artists like Usher, Nelly, Mariah Carey, and many others, Dupri is the Godfather of Veganism in the music world and has influenced many artists and entertainers, family members and friends, to try it out. His ad for PETA touted: Feel the beats, ditch the meats. We concur, and would only slightly edit the message to Feel the Beet. Dupri has much to share on the topic of food, healthy veganism, and plant-based eating, and so he will now have a platform to share his vegan secrets, including where to get the best food anywhere in the world, from Denver to Dubai.
Dupri explains that when he went vegan nearly 15 years ago, there was no guide like The Beet. There also wasn't a Beyond Burger or upscale plant-based pizzerias like his favorite new pizza place in his hometown of Atlanta, Plant-Based Pizzaria. Now he can visit upscale places like LA's Crossroads or Miami's Planta, but back then you had to go to the "hippie" section of town, he recalls, to find a vegan eatery, and even then these spots were hard to find out about.
In 2018 Dupri launched a PETA ad, "Feel The Beets, Lose the Meats, Go Vegan" with a video that went viral and was at the forefront of the mainstreaming trend of musicians talking about their vegan diet. Dupri has always been an influencer, both in music and in helping others go vegan, or at least try more plant-based foods for health and the environment. Before Jay-Z or Usher ever tried plant-based food, Dupri was eating it in the studio and after work for years. "I want the world to know that the vegan lifestyle is the best lifestyle," he says.
Even just 15 years ago vegan eating was hardly in the culture, much less making its way into the mainstream, whereas today it seems plant-based options are popping up everywhere as more Americans are adopting a plant-based, plant-leaning lifestyle. Dupri recalls one of his challenging moments on a snowboarding trip to Colorado with Mariah Carey when he first went vegan, and after the sun went down, "all the bars and restaurants around the village were packed with people, but none of the food worked for me. Instead, I had to go find a Subway and order a lettuce tomato and pickle sandwich and ask them to 'dice it up,' which Mariah still makes fun of to this day."
Nowadays being vegan is easier, Dupri says, but it's still too much of a struggle to find the best place to go in some cities. "I know how to make it a creative act to be vegan," Dupri explains. "People get bored and that's one reason they give up. They don't want to eat the same food over and over again." He is ready, he says, to be your guide to the plant-based or vegan lifestyle. Here, on The Beet he will offer his best advice, perspective, and in this interview, shares the secret to never going hungry: Learn the one snack to keep on hand for delicious, healthy, plant-based food any time you want a little something. The Beet welcomes JD, as his friends call him, to the family. We can't wait to learn, and pass along, all that he has to teach.
LSD: Why are you doing the partnership with The Beet?
JD: "Mainly because we need it. It's like the Hair Club for Men commercial, where I'm the one who created it because I'm the one who needed it! I feel like I am the most vegan person that a person can be, other than someone who's been doing it their entire life. But if you've been vegan or plant-based for a year or a couple of months, I am the guy you should be hanging out with, or who you should follow, to get some food. Because I eat vegan as a creative act. This column will help you get creative with it too."
LSD: How is it different being vegan now, versus back 15 years ago, when you started?
"When I started it was not creative at all. Still, today, young people, don't want to become vegan because driving down any street in America it's always McDonald's, Chick-fil-a, KFC, and as a vegan, you have to drive past all of these places and smell all this aroma and find this other little restaurant or place you never knew existed that serves vegan food. I have lived in Atlanta my whole life and when I became vegan I discovered places I never knew existed.
"When I became vegan 14 years ago the vegan restaurants were always in the shopping center, somewhere in the hippie section of town. In Minneapolis, all the vegan restaurants were in the hippie section of the city. and if you were not a hippie or you didn't feel comfortable in a hippie place, you probably wouldn't eat anything–because all of the vegan food you might want was in this area.
"Sometimes I think you almost had to become Indiana Jones–to go on an adventure and search for the lost arc. Back in the beginning, you had to really get out there and start off on an adventure to find a vegan restaurant in some places. That was in the beginning."
LSD: So now it's everywhere? That must be both satisfying and a little frustrating.
JD: "In Whole Foods, you walk in and the Beyond Burger is right in the front of the store. Even five years ago, in Whole Foods, there was no Beyond Meat. There was no Impossible, actually, it was impossible.
"When I first became a vegan there was just one burger, by Morning Star. That was the brand everyone was going to in the beginning. They had breakfast and burgers. and even with Morning Star, you get bored with the same food all the time. And you need to figure out how to make this a creative thing since if you eat the same food every day it gets uninteresting. That was the challenge.
"And in the past few years, I've started seeing people who are vegan chefs pop up and new vegan restaurants pop up... Suddenly it was like vegan heaven for me.
"But we are still not anywhere we are supposed to be, in terms of progress, and that is what makes this partnership so important. It can be so much better."
LSD: People ask me: What is Jermaine going to be doing for The Beet? Your answer?
JD: "I think what people don't understand about me is that I am the definition of "follow me" whether it's on Instagram or FB or twitter. I don't think people don't understand why on social media, it's called "follow." I think people just think this is a word for clicking on people's pages and checking them out. But the definition of 'follow' is that the person is worth learning from, and you want to engage in their life and follow them on the journey they are on.
"If you are like-minded, and by the way, that's why the like button exists, you can like what I am doing. I am not doing this because I don't know anything about vegan and am trying to learn it. Everything in this partnership is going to be about teaching people about veganism and gaining an understanding of where they should be eating, and understanding the difference between Impossible and Beyond Meat.
JD: "Any questions they want to ask me. What's special about Crossroads in LA vs another place in NY. I can tell you who has the best vegan chicken parmesan in LA, ...If you were to ask me any question [about being vegan] I could answer. So I'll answer anything you want to ask me.
"I am game to do some kind of Live Chat on IG and have people ask me anything about veganism. People can ask me questions about what I am going to do, and they can see me in the space and when they see or hear me talking about being a vegan, then everyone would get a better idea about how do to this. And we won't be talking about music."
LSD: Tell people again how you started being vegan? Not everyone knows the story.
JD: "The way I became vegan was I did a 25-day fast where I didn't eat solid food for 25 days. I fasted, and when I got closer to the 25th day I asked people "I feel so different now. My body feels different and I don't want to go back to my old ways. So how should I eat? I wanted to continue that feeling of having energy and being lighter, and everyone I spoke to said 'You should become vegan.' A few others said 'You should be a vegetarian.' But they still eat cheese and I felt like they eat things that I had cut out like cheese and I felt better. So I didn't want to go back to eating cheese, or dairy, because I felt better without them. I had let go of them. I didn't know anything about being vegan and I didn't have anything like The Beet. The world thought vegans only ate grass. I'd say I'm vegan. People would give me a salad.
"The vegan meals people were having dinner ten years ago would be carrots, onion and maybe a tomato. very very bland, nothing that was exciting to me. A couple of times it made me want to want to stop being a vegan, but then I started eating Chinese food, like vegetables with tofu, because there were not a lot of places to go out to eat that were vegan back then. This partnership with The Beet makes sense to me because if you're like me you want a space that talks to you and gives you the information you need."
LSD: But you stuck with it, despite not having a guide to help you navigate at first
JD: Once I started. I was determined to stay vegan and not break my vegan diet. My diet changed from when I was starting out. It's not just important being vegan for the way your body feels but eating healthy. A whole bunch of things have changed for me. We would go skiing and snowboarding at these places they are not big on veganism. That was then, it was completely different from today. You'd go to someplace like a pub in this town like Beaver Creek and everyone is eating all this food and you just end up ordering french fries. But if you keep eating all these fried unhealthy things, it's no different from eating steak and all these unhealthy things. So being disciplined, I had to find something I could eat, which is a mix of foods. When I was snowboarding I had to go find a Subway Shop. I said "Just give me a lettuce, tomato, and pickle sandwich and you know what? They charge you for the meat, even though you don't want it.
"I put on salt and pepper and oil and vinegar, on it, and asked them to heat the bun up, and on a nine-grain whole wheat bun, it tasted pretty good! It's almost like a salad sandwich. And it's always a joke now, with Mariah and me. She says, 'Where are you going tonight? Subway?' "
LSD: Who influenced you the most when you were starting out on this journey?
JD: "When I first became a vegan there was this place called Soul Vegetarian... and it's actually still around, now in two locations. And these guys are basically at the beginning of the movement. And I met a waitress there, who lives in Atlanta, and she was vegetarian. And some of her kids wanted to be part of what's going on and some didn't. She had nine kids, and five were non-vegan and four were vegan. I was asking a lot of questions when I became vegan, and she said of the five kids who were not vegan they had been in and out of the hospital their whole lives. And of the four kids who were vegan, they had never been sick in their lives.
"This really meant a lot to me, because I wanted my mother to be vegan and to be healthy and finally, I could tell my mother this amazing story. I told my mother: This lady said her kids who chose to be vegan have never been sick. I don't know her and she has no reason to lie to me. And I immediately took that and ran with it. If this lady says her kids have never been sick, then that's how I want to be. I never want anything holding me down. And God willing that's how it's been ... other than a sniffle, I have not been sick"
LSD That is an amazing story. I love that. We all get inspiration from chance encounters
JD: It's amazing. I get excited to talk about this. But I also have to take it slow because if you get too excited you can't always sus that everyone is trying to say they're vegan even when they're not. I go to some restaurants that say they're vegan and they cook with butter.
"Cooking vegan is still a science and there is important information people have to have to do it correctly. Sometimes I am out and I will try a new place and you know they are using butter and they are not doing it right. A lot of these places cut corners. You have to find the ones and talk to the owners and figure out who really cares. Like at Crossroads, they put so much time into the food, it's what I call real veganism.
"In some places, people don't know the difference between vegan and vegetarianism. The chef will come out and serve a plate with real cheese. And then when you explain that you don't eat cheese, they bring the plate back a second time, and it's just something bland. Or they just took the cheese off it. That's why this partnership is important to me because I believe that I know the places that are not cutting corners."
LSD: What's your favorite city for eating vegan food now?
JD: New York has so many places. New York is really the vegan capital of the US. In New York, they have got so many great places, and in Brooklyn, there are a lot of great vegan places. I know all the spots. I think the most important thing people know about this partnership with The Beet is that when you learn where to go, its a new way of life for people– if they choose to do it, but people have to educate themselves because it's not just like eating the old way but without certain things.
LSD: I agree. What's the biggest goal or hope you have for this partnership?
JD: "When you get it right, it makes you feel so much better. I want people to understand that. At Thanksgiving, before I went vegan, eating turkey made me want to go to sleep. Food is not supposed to make people want to go to sleep. It's supposed to energize people. Food is what is weighing you down, and I never want to go to that place again.
"I've never had a space to share what I know. I feed off of a feeling that sometimes I am missing something. And every time I am in that space where I am missing something, it means that I need a creative space I can let that energy out and talk about it. The Beet is going to be that space.
LSD: What types of things are you dying to share with people?
JD: "Things that really take me by surprise: Like the first time I had vegan shrimp. I had it first at Viva La Vegan in Atlanta, and this shrimp was made out of a root that they actually cook and it tastes just like shrimp and it tastes amazing, And there was also the first time I ever had Jack fruit! I had never even heard of Jack fruit before I went vegan. They serve a jerk Jack fruit plate and rice and it's amazing.
"Not being vegan I never would have paid attention to this restaurant, which is in a non-descript place between a liquor store and some other store in a part of town you'd have no reason to go to, except for the food. And its some of the best food in Atlanta! And that was the first time I had this shrimp. The second place I had it was Green Soma Cafe. The shrimp is amazing. I made some of my non-vegan friends have this shrimp and it blew their minds.
"Another thing people don't understand is that all those places you think veganism is not popular, it actually is popular. Like St. Louis, which has a whole vegan section of town, and Dallas has a vegan section of town. Atlanta doesn't have a vegan section. A lot of these places where you'd think are off the vegan path, they have a very large vegan population. and there are a lot of places to eat. In Denver when I was there for the showing of my documentary, there was the little place I went to that had amazing vegan food. I should do where to eat vegan in every city in the US!
LSD: What do you eat at home? Do you have anything that people should keep handy?
JD: "So the one thing is that is not expensive and everyone can get it everywhere. It is Miso Ramen Noodles, Vegan, and Gluten-Free. I think it's called You Make MISO Happy. It's red miso rice ramen noodles. It's ready to eat and it's delicious. If you have it and you're trying to be vegan! It's low in sodium and you get a packet and keep it on hand. Just add hot water. And you've got a snack or a meal.
For More from Jermaine, check this space. And ask questions since he wants to answer, and help you with all your vegan lifestyle needs!