Kurtis J. Williams, Sr., Executive Chef, became vegan in 2017, after watching the documentary “What the Health “and experiencing a devastating loss of his mother. Kurtis then decided to take action and change his diet and lifestyle. Through much research, Kurtis committed to a plant-based diet in order to manage his pre-existing medical conditions and improve his overall health. The first 2 weeks were the most challenging! Kurtis, a natural cook, found it very frustrating to find meal options, food that tasted good and creative ways to cook in the kitchen. Over time, Kurtis learned the importance of committing to this lifestyle change because his health improved. However, in order to remain interested in cooking and eating vegan, Kurtis went on a journey to find how to make vegan food delicious and nutritious. Kurtis traveled to Toronto, New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. and dined at some of the best, world-renowned plant-based restaurants and determined that vegan food can and should taste good!
This ultimately led him to create recipes and learn ways to make his favorite American style comfort food, healthy and vegan. Kurtis took delight in bringing his homemade dishes to potlucks, parties and gatherings and the response from others was phenomenal. Vegans and non-vegans both remarked on how delicious and satisfying his food was. Kurtis then decided that if more people could experience good, quality, tasty vegan food, then maybe they would make the change to a plant-based diet too. Thus the idea of Squash the Beef Catering was birthed. Kurtis tested this theory and in 2019 entered his first food competition. The Vegan Chili Cook Off in Lakewood, Ohio, was the debut of Kurtis’ homemade chili and the catering company Squash the Beef. A rookie in this competition, Kurtis was unsure if his unique recipe would win people over. Well it did! Kurtis won 1st place in the chili competition with an overwhelming amount of votes. The 3rd place participant received 9 votes, 2nd place, 18 votes and Kurtis won with 42 votes! The audience demanded more and desperately wanted to try his other homemade recipes such as his vegan soul rolls, dirty grits and vegan lasagna. Kurtis next big venture is to win the hearts and tummy’s of over 13, 000 participants at the 2019 Cleveland VegFest!