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Rising Stars: Meet Sonia Steele

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sonia Steele. 

Hi Sonia, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
This is my story, and I’m sticking to it. I was born Sonia, but most people affectionately know me as ‘Vegan Vicki’ and the owner of Koncious Kuisine. Vicki is just a “family nickname” that stuck with me throughout the years. In July 2008, I was diagnosed with bronchioloaveolar carcinoma mucinous, a non-small cell form of lung cancer generally found in non-smokers. After having my lower left lung removed and while on my road to recovery, I knew I wanted to make a change. 

After months of research, my journey started out as a vegetarian the week of Thanksgiving 2008; yup, I went “cold turkey,” pun intended. When I couldn’t find any options that catered to my tastes or the foods, I learned how to make in the kitchen with my grandmother and mom when we would spend summers down south in Alabama. Seeing the many changes that came with my new lifestyle, I wanted to see what else I could do to better my life. 

After further research on how animals were treated and how they processed animal by-products, I knew I couldn’t eat those things anymore, so I became a vegan and started making my favorite meals and sweets using the same recipes from my family but making them vegan. When I began to share my food with family and friends, from their reactions, I knew I had something special at this point is when Koncious Kuisine (formerly Urban Sweetness) was birthed. 

Being the first to bring “vegan soul food” to Cleveland has had its ups and downs from people not understanding how it could be a thing. Remember, veganism wasn’t nearly as popular or mainstream back in 2008 as it is now. So, I took A LOT of No’s and “I don’t want to try it” from just about everybody that didn’t understand the lifestyle, but I believed in my food and myself and took a chance on just about everything and everybody I could get my food in front of. Being that persistent has gotten me on the Fox 8 Cleveland Morning Show several times, being featured in several publications,, becoming the first vegan to have an exclusive menu inside the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, and becoming the chef for several celebrities and professional athletes. 

I always think I didn’t go through my ordeal with cancer to not bless others. Having cancer not only strengthened my faith in God, but it has also allowed me to help others along the way with their journeys. Out of what some may think was a bad situation became something so powerful and great. I want people to feel the love and passion I have for veganism and for the food I prepare for them. It is not just a plate I’m making; I want it to be a journey of love, happiness, and compassion. That’s why people come back because I put love on every plate. 

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Smooth ride? Not at all. I fought hard to get my food in places for years. Back in 2008, people were not thinking of veganism or plant-based foods. There were only a few products that existed, so you had to come up with recipes and different ways to basically eat. When I would get invited to places, people would frown their faces at me in disgust, yes, disgust because they thought vegan food was “nasty” without even trying it. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a vegan personal chef. I specialize in elevated vegan/plant-based soul cuisine. What I love about what I do is interacting with the different people I meet when I have events; some people have literally become friends. I try to celebrate every victory I have no matter how big or small it is, so I would have to say I am most proud of taking risks and being the first to set the path for up-and-coming vegan and plant-based small business owners coming behind me. What sets me apart from others is the food industry is a high-stress industry, and you’re only as good as your last plate. I strive to make every plate or meal a priority. I work hard every day on my brand to be the best at what I do, and the goals I have obtained so far is proof of making sure I stay at the top of my game and never forget what I have been through and where I still want to go and achieve. 

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
What matters most to me is my faith in God and family. When I went through my journey, I knew there was only two things I could rely on, and that was my faith and trust in God. and my family. They are very important to me in my everyday walk. 

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Image Credits

Kamron Khan Photography

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