A Vegan Corner for the Community

By Shaquille Shaniqua Joy

The Vegan Corner Yemaya in Amsterdam Reigersbos challenges the idea of a traditional restaurant. Their vision is to invest in their community by serving healthy vegan food and much more.

Since the 1 of March in 2020, Yemaya’s doors have been open and already gained a big crowd of fans in a short amount of time. Two days ago they decided to update their menu in order to fulfil the wishes their community voiced since that is what they are about. Co-founder and chef Martin Ong-A-Kwie (39) explains that Yemaya is a vegan corner, which is more than a restaurant. Their goal is to invest in their community, promote the vegan lifestyle and create awareness on this subject. Next to that, they are planning to do more than just serving food such as giving workshops on the subject of nutrition and spirituality.

Yemaya was founded by Martin together with his twin brother Merrel and Merrel’s wife Sharon. They all have a Surinamese background and their dream was to open their vegan corner in Suriname in the first place. Martin, who initially worked in the home furnishing business explains: “Even though we first wanted to start the idea in Suriname, we got an offer for a building in Amsterdam Reigersbos from a real estate agent and decided to take it.” In the end, it worked out perfectly for them since they decided that Amsterdam South-East is the community they want to reach. Martin says: “The awareness within the Black community on veganism is growing through a lot of Black vegan role-models who promote the lifestyle. This is what we as Yemaya’s Vegan Corner want to contribute to.”

Martin explains that their target group is very broad, as they have vegan customers, while others just want to eat healthier or change their diet and some just enjoy their food. Osasumwen Aghafua (21) is a loyal customer and enjoys their menu. She says: “I like to eat at Yemaya because it is healthy, vegan, delicious and it is also Black-owned.” The 21-year-old student and producer, who lives close by the vegan corner, explains that it is important for her to support your locals and community.

“All of our dishes are equally sold and popular and I personally also like everything but if I had to choose something I would go for the saoto soup and the burger,” says Martin while preparing the meals. The menu has something for everyone with fusion dishes and a focus on Surinamese and Caribbean cuisine. What is most important to them is that everything is vegan and prepared in the most healthy way possible. The prices are very affordable and they even offer a discount for students, which also contributes to the accessibility of the vegan lifestyle.

What is special about Yemaya is that what they do is more than just serving food. They create awareness and educate on the vegan lifestyle, which is still something many people are unfamiliar with. Through their dishes they show that delicious food can also be healthy and vegan and therefore beneficial for the environment, animals as well as the wellbeing of their customers.