If you are a regular at Kush21 or Kush & Glass in Burien, you may have noticed a food truck sitting out front. What you might not have realized is that it’s not your typical munchie pitstop. Moe Vegan opened up in October 2019 and is the creation of Keenan Hart, or as his friends call him, K Hart. Kush21 sat with him back in 2019 to hear his incredible backstory behind the brand and his mission to bring vegan food to the people in his community.
Q&A WITH K HART OF MOE VEGAN
Kush21: When did you get into the food truck industry?
K Hart: I started a food truck a year ago but it was a whole different type of food truck. I was selling sweet and savory waffles.
Kush21: All Vegan?
K Hart: No, and see that’s the thing. I had been vegan for about four and a half years and had this whole business plan with my food truck selling waffles. I had started this idea like six years ago before I became vegan. So this whole waffle concept and everything like that was already set in stone. I was like, alright, I am going to just do this because I already have the recipes. People weren’t really into vegan five years ago. People weren’t into it, and I knew there wasn’t any money in it.
Long story short, I started the waffle truck, and it was good, we were down at Seahawks games selling out, and everybody loved it, but it was hard to do that because I didn’t even eat my product. I felt like I was selling crack to my community. Because a lot of people from my neighborhood came to support me, and I knew all the sugar, all the whipped cream, all the dairy I put into it was no good. So I said man, I have to check myself because it’s not always about the money, you know what I mean?
So I was like, forget it, I’m going to do this vegan, 100% plant-based food truck. I took like seven months off, wondering if I was going to do it or not and trying to come up with business plans. They either gonna be with me or not.
I finally decided on the Vegan food-truck idea. I was thinking about working with a dispensary for a long time, but I didn’t know who to talk to. Someone told me to check out Kush21. I didn’t have a food truck or logo; I just had the idea. Kush21 listened and believed in me, and here I am.
Kush21: So, part of your mission is to provide better quality food to your community specifically, correct?
K Hart: Ya, ya, for sure. It’s for everybody, but I want to start out with our people who are dying of heart disease and diabetes. They say it’s hereditary, but I feel it is a traditional thing that has been passed down, and my momma cooked like this on Sundays, and her momma cooked like this too. They had BBQ, and candied yams and pork, and all this stuff came down through our family, so I feel like this is a traditional thing and not just a hereditary thing.
I’m just trying, one step at a time, to move everyone in a better direction. I lost my brother too. Moe is my brother. (Points to his logo)
Kush21: So the business and the name is inspired by your late brother?
K Hart: I lost him when he was 30 years old. He had a lot of health complications. And I think that if he was on a plant-based diet, he might have been able to reverse what was going on with his health.
Kush21: So you are blending a world of comfort foods people are familiar with, and you are giving them this healthy vegan alternative, correct?
K Hart: Right now, I’m trying to turn people out, you know what I mean, break them into vegan. So I do nachos, tacos and mac and cheese. Comfort food, fast food type of stuff. These are like my cheat day foods like elephant ears and nachos. I typically eat even cleaner like raw superfoods and veggies.
Kush21: So to just say that you are gonna start a vegan food truck is one thing. But to come out with a good recipe and imitate cheese, milk and all these things and pull it off, how did you do the research and development? What is your process?
K Hart: If I tell you my recipes, I will have to kill you (he jokes.)
I didn’t go to school for nothing, my education is minimal. I graduated from high school and all, but I was a troubled kid. Everything I have learned is freestyle.
Kush21: So, where did the passion come from?
K Hart: I have always been a cook. Always cooked for all my friends, my homies, when they would come over to my house. I was always in the kitchen cooking everybody food. I am always cooking. That’s been one of my angles with the ladies too. Cooking is my thing you know what I mean?
Kush21: So basically just trying things out to get the recipes right?
K Hart: I did some research to check and see what other vegan chefs are doing and to work on my consistency, but what I noticed is a lot of their recipes lacked flavor. So what I do, my secret to make vegan foods taste good is the same way you season your filet mignons, and your pork chops and your chicken, most of those same seasons are vegan. So I use basically the same seasonings I used when I ate meat back in the day. I used the same types of seasonings with the things that I imitate and it gives them the same flavors.
Kush21: And it’s a good way for people who are not vegan or don’t understand and think vegan won’t taste good to start out. You are basically showing them that these familiar flavors are here, and it’s kind of their segue into the more raw types of vegan food later on as they start to get used to eating vegan, correct?
K Hart: Right because that’s how I started. When I first became vegan, I gained weight. You know you hear that when you become vegan, you will lose a lot of weight. That’s the myth. When I first started eating vegan, I actually gained 20lbs. I was eating vegan ice cream, vegan cookies. I’m thinking; it’s vegan. It’s healthy! But you can also gain weight eating vegan. So right now we are showing people foods they are familiar with, but eventually, we are going to slowly but surely start introducing them to the quinoas and the spinach and the superfoods that really make a difference in their body.
Kush21: So you are giving them what is familiar and then you are slowly starting to give them new things as they trust your flavors?
K Hart: We build the trust. The hardest thing was the Seahawks games we did. Everyone was drunk and wanted hotdogs and hamburgers and complaining that they don’t want no vegan food. So I am over here trying to hustle and talking to people saying to try it. “If you don’t like it, I will give you your money back” and then they eat it and ask for three more. We ended up selling out at the Seahawks game, so you know.
Kush21: So, what are some of your specialties right now or dishes you are most proud of?
K Hart: The southern baked mack and cheese is good, and the vegan pork fried rice was a hit. Also, the butter rosemary garlic cheese fries!
We have what is called a “Rasta Pasta” which is a mix of coconut cream sauce mixed with jerk chicken sauce and a little bit of some special flavors and rigatoni noodles.
For sweets, we have elephant ears. You don’t have to wait til the Puyallup fair to get an elephant ear; we make those all season, but our menu changes all the time.
Kush21: So, beyond just being vegan, you also help people with food allergies. For example, I can’t eat eggs, so I always rely on vegan options.
K Hart: Yeah, and we are planning on doing a once a month brunch on Sundays: French toast, breakfast burritos, vegan sausage, and more.
Kush21: Well, we look forward to trying that when brunch is finally on the menu too! Thanks for telling us a little more about your story!
You can catch Moe Vegan every Thursday – Saturday from 3-8 pm out in front of Kush21 and for more details, follow along on their Instagram page: @MoeVegan
Interview originally posted in November 2019.