This week, we're rolling out a few healthy recipes to help jumpstart your spring wellness kick during our series, The Wellness Experience. Adjoa Courtney, professionally known as Chef Joya, is an award-winning private celebrity chef, the author of four cookbooks, and a cultural influencer. Known as the viral vegan chef who shows us how to take our favorite everyday dishes and transform them into plant-based options, the Charlotte-based cooking sensation has also worked as the private chef to singer Fantasia.

Born in Milwaukee, she started her vegan lifestyle at the young age of 7. She loved the delicious smells that came from the kitchens of her grandmother and other elders in her community, and frequently befriended them in food havens to obtain their authentic recipes. Now, she's hosting pop-ups all over the country, as well as penning cookbooks to help transitioning vegans along their journey.

As she experimented with different cultural flavors such as soul food, African, Afro-Caribbean and French, her recipes expanded to include cuisines from across the globe. Recognizing the need for vegan cuisine in many culinary genres, Chef Joya began teaching other chefs how to prepare plant-based meals for their clients. 

Although she's most known for perfecting the vegan mac and cheese recipe–and often talking about the right way to make it with actual melted vegan cheese—the recent Food Network Supermarket Stakeout contestant ensures us that she can also do healthy dishes, too.

"I always tell people, don't let me be your first vegan experience. Because it is going to be bad for you after you try someone else's food," she joked during an interview with TS Madison.

As we continue to perfect our summer bodies, or rather the body that summer will get, we tapped the Say What, It's Vegan? YouTube show host to get a few of her recipes to add to our menus at-home. Check out the step-by-step instructions on how to make her 7-layer salad, as well as her white and black greens.

Chef Joya's 7-Layer Salad

7-Layer Salad
Image: Jonathan Cooper.

7-Layer Salad

  • 8 cups romaine lettuce
  • 1 chopped medium red onion
  • 12 oz. frozen peas, thawed 
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced thin 
  • 12 oz. carrots, shredded 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
  • 12 oz. non-dairy cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup imitation bacn bits 
  • 2 cups vegan mayo 
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan whipped topping
  1. Mix the vegan mayo and vegan whipped topping to create the salad dressing.
  2. Allow the dressing mixture to chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Top off the salad with a layer of cheese.
  4. Sprinkle the bac’n bits over the cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lipper International Serving Bowl

Price: $37

Sir Kensington's Vegan Mayo

Price: $8

Chef Joya's Black & White Greens

Black & White Greens
Image: Jonathan Cooper.

Black & White Greens

  • 2 lbs collard greens, cleaned and chopped 
  • 1 small cabbage head, sliced thin 
  • 1 small onion, sliced 
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped 
  • ½ jalapeño, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced 
  • 2 cups vegetable stock 
  • 2 tbsp. agave 
  • 2 tsp. smoked salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper 
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder 
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder 
  • 1 tsp. thyme 
  • ½ tsp. liquid smoke 
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  1. Add olive oil to a 6-quart pot over medium heat.
  2. Saute onions, garlic, and red bell pepper in the oil.
  3. Add collard greens and sauté for 2 minutes
  4. Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and apple cider vinegar. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Mix in the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and simmer for 35 minutes.
  6. Add the sliced cabbage, agave nectar, and liquid smoke.
  7. Cook on low for an additional 15 minutes.

Good & Gather Organic Agave

Price: $6

Gustus Vitae Smoked Sea Salt

Price: $8