It might look like a typical roadside diner from the outside, but there’s a lot more going on at Tabay’s Mindful Kitchen than meets the eye.
For starters, the burgers, tacos, wraps and nuggets on offer have one thing in common: they’re 100% plant-based.
Atkins doesn’t advertise its offerings as vegan, but everything you order on the menu is free of meat, dairy, and animal products.
While it might not be what you expect from a roadside dining experience, Atkins has many happy customers who enjoy the taste and benefits of their vegan food.
Atkins was just 12 years old when he decided he wanted to become a vegan. However, the story begins when he was even younger.
Atkins’ mother, Sahel, had recently battled cancer. She underwent intensive chemotherapy with debilitating side effects and joined a yoga teacher training program when she was just two weeks cancer-free.
At just six years old, her son was by her side every step of the way.
As Atkins watched his mother grow stronger and more resilient as she practiced, he knew yoga was his calling.
“I got into yoga after my mom beat cancer,” says Atkins. “After practicing yoga, she was able to recover from the effects of chemotherapy and cancer, and that inspired me to start teaching yoga.”
Since then, Tabay has completed a series of yoga teacher training, healing certifications and special modalities.
After being immersed in the yoga community at the age of six, it was a logical step for Tabay when he finally went vegan six years later.
“If yoga is a big part of your life, you’re going to start hearing about veganism whether you like it or not,” shares Atkins.
Atkins and her mother explored veganism, encouraged by their new community and commitment to health. What finally got them to make the switch turned out to be an airplane dinner.
“We were in New York flying back to California on the plane,” says Atkins. “I ate pasta with chicken and a cheese board and after eating it, I felt a stone in my stomach. I felt really bad. I said, ‘OK, that’s enough. I’m going vegan now.’”
Back home, Atkins and his mother watched the documentary “What the Health,” which helped cement his decision. From there, Atkins did more research and eventually opted for a Whole Foods Based Diet (WFPB).
“You still don’t eat animal products,” says Atkins. “You don’t eat meat, dairy and eggs, but you also cut out processed sugar and refined oils, so you don’t have any kind of processed foods.”
While Atkins favors the WFPB lifestyle, he still offers other options on his food truck.
“Some people don’t even know what vegan is or have the wrong idea of what a plant-based diet is,” says Atkins. “I wanted to give people the first step of the plant-based diet, but I also have a lot of plant-based whole foods options on the menu. That way, people have options.”
He likes to call his food trucks “vegans in disguise”. Rather than being labeled plant-based, the menu features items like “f’sh tacos,” “buffalo chik’n wrap,” and “beaf burger.”
“It doesn’t feel like a vegan food truck,” says Atkins. “I tell them I was vegan and they had no idea. And that kind of opens people’s minds to the plant-based diet.”
When it comes to business, Atkins says the idea has been on the table for him and his mom for a long time. They saved up to eventually make their food truck vision a reality.
“We always knew we wanted to eventually have our own restaurant,” he says. “We came very close to buying a restaurant probably in 2013 or ’14, but it all worked out when we moved back to California and eventually built a truck.”
The 36-foot custom truck lives at a Dana Point gas station that Atkins and her mother run together.
“This is something we really wanted to do,” he says. “I have been in the world of gastronomy for some time now. Giving cooking classes, making cooking content and even small private events, but nothing on this scale. So it’s very exciting for us.”
As Atkins learned more and more about the vegan lifestyle, he began to make connections with his yoga training.
“I started to learn even more about how much better the plant-based diet is in terms of animal rights and not harming animals,” he says.
Atkins notes that the yogic philosophy of “ahimsa,” or non-violence to all living beings, played a big part in his decision-making.
“I started to learn more about animals and became more of an advocate for ending animal cruelty,” he says. “I thought, ‘Wow, this isn’t just good for my health. It is also good for animals and also for the environment. Helps reduce carbon emissions. This helps reduce deforestation and water use.’”
Turns out Atkins did his research.
according to a
Benefits for human health
When it comes to human health, a whole foods diet also offers many benefits.
These can include:
If you want to try a plant-based diet, Atkins has lots of helpful tips.
Step by step
First, he suggests reducing the overload and taking things one step at a time.
“The best way to describe switching to a plant-based diet is: It’s a journey,” says Atkins. “It’s not you who does this. And then there you are.
Rather than jumping in all at once, facilitate the changes one at a time.
He also suggests getting comfortable with cooking at home. This can reduce the expense of dining out and purchasing specialty vegetarian items in the store, which are often processed.
use an app
If you’re looking for places to get vegan food, Tabay suggests the Happy Cow app. Just enter your zip code or city and the app displays vegan options near you.
When it comes to keeping things sweet on a WFPB diet, Atkins has two favorite sweeteners he uses in place of sugar: dates and brown sugar.
Dates, the fruit of the palm tree, are high in fiber and antioxidants, making them a great sugar swap. For subdates for sugar, follow these simple steps:
- Mix 2 cups (480 grams) of pitted dates with 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) of water to make a paste.
- Add paste to recipes in place of sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
Atkins’ other favorite is brown sugar, a sweetener often found in Asian and African dishes. Jaggery is made from sugar cane or dates, but is not rotated during processing. This leaves more nutrients behind.
Jaggery may contain significant amounts of:
- B vitamins
- minerals such as zinc, copper, calcium and phosphorus
However, it’s important to keep in mind that brown sugar is still sugar. It’s a good substitute for added nutrients, but it doesn’t reduce the calories, fructose or sucrose that regular sugar involves.
Ultimately, Atkins’ commitment to sharing plant-based eating with the world is a reflection of the intention he shares at the end of every yoga class: “Think good thoughts, speak kind words, feel love, be love, and give.” love”.
Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner. She has taught in private studios, gyms and in individual settings in Los Angeles, Thailand and the San Francisco Bay Area. She shares mindful self-care strategies through online courses at Simple Wild Free. You can find her on Instagram.