Business, Central New York, Food

Bad Vegen Cafe: Home-Cooked Meals with a Twist

How to make Bad Vegen's Black Bean Burger

By Alison Caliguire SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – In 2014, Tieasha Muhammad-Bey was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own tissues and organs. She lost her job and moved in with her brother.

Muhammad-Bey said she was taking medications but wasn’t getting better, and her doctors weren’t helping.

“I was going through a lot,” Muhammad-Bey said.

She realized she needed to pay attention to how the foods she ate impacted her body.

So she decided to go vegan, a diet that excludes all animal products ranging from meat to eggs and dairy.

At first, Muhammad-Bey said it was a struggle.

“I had to learn how to eat vegan, and I didn’t like any of the vegan food,” Muhmmad-Bey said.

Muhammad-Bey started creating her own recipes that imitated her favorite home-cooked meals.

She came up with vegan versions of mac and cheese, fajitas and even pulled pork.

To create those recipes without meat or dairy, Muhammad-Bey relied on her experience from a lifetime of cooking. Her dad is from St. Thomas and her ex-fiance is from Liberia, so Muhammad-Bey said she’s used to cooking with a lot of spices.

She also learned about how different spices can have different impacts on your body and started incorporating those spices into her new vegan dishes. She said she adds turmeric to her vegan mac and cheese because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

One night while cooking fajitas, Muhmmad-Bey thought to herself “this dish is too bad to be a vegan dish,” and the Bad Vegen was born.

Muhammad-Bey joined the Upstart Business Program, a program which helps local entrepreneurs start businesses through mentoring and training, and started her catering business.

Muhmmad-Bey’s spring/summer menu has comfort food staples such as black bean burgers and barbecue jackfruit, as well as dishes that highlight her Caribbean influence such as curried mushrooms.

And the fan-favorite vegan mac and cheese?

“That’s all year-round food,” Muhammad-Bey said.

Her favorite dish to make is the “bad shorty,” a strawberry coconut shortcake.

With Bad Vegen Cafe, Muhammad-Bey said she’s trying to change the way people think about vegan food.

“People think vegans are supposed to eat salad and carrots and all this. Bad Vegen is for people trying to transition like I did,” Muhmmad-Bey said. “You aren’t going to miss anything.”

Muhmmad-Bey is saving money to try and open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, but for now, she has a pop-up every Thursday at the Syracuse co-kitchen on the city’s North Side.

But she doesn’t want to stop at opening a restaurant.

“I want to be the first vegan bed and breakfast in Syracuse,” Muhmmad-Bey said.

Black Bean Burgers

Serves: 4


  • 1 cup – precooked black beans
  • 2 cups – precooked rice
  • 1 Tbsp – arrowroot
  • Your favorite seasoning (Tieasha suggests salt, pepper, paprika)
  • Your favorite burger toppings


  • Mix precooked beans, precooked rice and spices in large bow
  • Add arrowroot to beans and rice mixture
  • Form into 4 patties
  • Heat oil in pan or skillet
  • Fry patties for about 3 minutes or until firm
  • Assemble with your favorite burger toppings!