Shawn Harrison of Tephra Vegan

Written by Kacie Smagacz

Shawn Harrison of Tephra VeganYOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. The time is now to start caring, and once you care, you need to care some more. Shawn Harrison is a front-runner and a key part of a growing, thriving community in Charlotte that is aiming to bring amazing food to your fork, without simultaneously bringing any cruelty or death to your body (or the bodies of other creatures). Known for his incredible “chicken” and waffles to higher-end five course gourmet dinners, this chef is not one for short cuts or limitations.  With overnight yeast-based cornbread waffle batter, to say he takes his industry anything but seriously would be an understatement, and you will taste it the second you try it.  He puts passion and compassion at his forefront and your body will thank you for it.

Meet Tephra Vegan, Harrison’s solo initiative in the plant-based food industry to spread the vegan love, while taking away the stigma commonly associated with the word.  (Trust me. Try his “chicken” and you won’t believe your mouth.) After being an executive chef and menu developer for other restaurants city-wide, Harrison states that “Tephra Vegan was initially the dream of a brick & mortar restaurant to be called, Tephra, which is defined as ‘solid matter ejected during a volcanic eruption. The word brings a lot of meaning behind what I have tried to accomplish throughout my career.  To me Tephra means breaking new ground while shattering old dogmas and perceptions. The concept has sort of evolved into a state of its own and has become a vessel and foundation for a compassionate lifestyle movement that is much larger than myself.”

Shawn Harrison of Tephra Vegan Shawn Harrison of Tephra Vegan

I have being watching Harrison’s work for a while now.  He has ideas jotted down in notebooks filled with papers from previous menus.  The fresh ingredients he sources locally at the farmers market. He knows specifically what type of apple he is using and where it comes from and he is painstakingly meticulous through the inception of the idea, to the development of the menu, and with the execution of the items. This is heart and soul food.

SMAGACZ: With a background and love for the arts, why food?
HARRISON: I fell into cooking at the age of 15 and became addicted the challenges, the adrenaline rushes, the lifestyle, and constantly seeking knowledge related to the craft of cooking food. Cooking became the deepest form of meditation for me, a focused and calming anchor in a severely hectic and unsettling world.

SMAGACZ: Why plant based?
HARRISON: I became vegan when I was 15, but fell off about two years later. After a bout of extreme alcoholism, drug addiction, and an overdose at the age of 18, I suffered through overwhelmingly, intense panic attacks wherein I had many visions of intense, earthly suffering. These visions led to a stunning realization that if you consume animals (including babies) and excretions from our modern, industrialized, compartmentalized slaughterhouses, you are complicit in the transference of suffering energy from those animals to your own manifested body, which in turn acts as a magnet to greater mental and physical affliction. Simply put, plant-based is the future. Old world thoughts and traditions are beginning to die at a rapid pace and taking their place are acts of compassion and progress. Our food system will need to change with our shifting collective consciousness. Besides, if it weren’t for government subsidies, meat and dairy industries would be the most unprofitable, inefficient industries in existence.

SMAGACZ: Food is such a love language.  What do you love preparing the most for others?
HARRISON: Sweet potatoes are, by far, my favorite food to cook and serve due to their extreme versatility and because they are native to North Carolina.
Instagram: tephravegan

Kacie Smagacz   Kacie Smagacz Visit Author Page |



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