Interview with Chef Yesenia Ramdass, Founder of HAAM

Interview with Chef Yesenia Ramdass, Founder of HAAM

Chef Yesenia Ramdass, founder of HAAM (Healthy As A Motha), a distinguished Dominican & Trinidadian Plant-Based restaurant in NYC, is a culinary visionary committed to crafting delectable and wholesome plant-based cuisine. With a conscious lifestyle embraced from an early age, her dishes reflect a fusion of Dominican and Trinidadian influences. As a first-generation Dominican American, Yesenia honours her heritage, amplifying it through her connection to Trinidadian cuisine. Revolutionising the culinary scene, she expertly combines flavours with resourcefulness, using seasonal vegetables and cultivating produce from her own home garden. Driven by an unwavering passion for excellence and cultural authenticity, Yesenia elevates the plant-based dining experience without compromising taste.

HAAM is an elevated, fine dining plant-based Caribbean restaurant. That’s pretty innovative! Tell us how you got started.

At the age of 17, I discovered the impact of veganism and embarked on a 13-year journey from vegetarianism to full veganism. Over the last 17 years, my mission has been to bridge the education gap in my community. From blogs to YouTube recipes, I found my calling after losing my mother to cancer in 2018. Putting delicious vegan food in front of customers became my way of raising awareness. Three years later, here we are with a unique restaurant, a fusion of Dominican and Trinidadian, representing the vibrant flavours of the Caribbean.

Food pairings are traditionally around meat and booze (eg red meat with red wine). Could you give a beginner some insight into how you would pair your vegan food with our NA cocktails?

Certainly! At our fully vegan restaurant, we embrace the art of pairing plant-based dishes with exquisite non-alcoholic cocktails. Just as traditional pairings complement flavours, our focus is on enhancing the diverse and vibrant tastes of our vegan menu. For example, the richness of spices in our Bus Up Shut Roti plate might find balance with a zesty ginger dry cocktail, while our refreshing Strava Cream could elevate the flavours of one of our fresh salads. It's about creating harmonious combinations that highlight the nuances of each dish and drink, offering a delightful and innovative dining experience for both vegans and those exploring plant-based cuisine for the first time.


Do you have a favorite food and NA cocktail pairing?

My absolute favorite is to start off with our Palo Santo dry cocktail made with the Three Spirit Nightcap and indulge in our Chimichurri Chunk Steak. 

We’re delighted to be your featured NA cocktails. You’ve chosen not to have a liquor license - what informed that decision?

While we hold a beer/wine license, our commitment to diversity extends beyond our food menu and into our bar program. Ensuring inclusivity has always been a priority for our restaurant. We take pride in providing an inclusive space where everyone can find options tailored to their preferences, both in our culinary offerings and at the bar. Our dedication to diversity is not just a part of our menu; it's the essence of our establishment, inviting all to indulge in a rich tapestry of flavours and choices.


What’s been the greatest challenge so far?

In our first month of operation, the challenges of launching a new business have been both rewarding and demanding. Building the right team to bring our vision to life has been a crucial yet intricate process. Balancing financial considerations to keep the business afloat adds another layer of complexity. However, the most significant challenge lies in the limited flexibility to spend time with my family. Navigating these hurdles requires resilience, but the journey is driven by the passion to create something meaningful and enduring.

Tell us three people that should be on our radar. Who inspires you?

My husband Randy Ramdass, Chef Guy Vaknin and Chef Kwame Onwuachi.

Finally, what sort of people are you seeing responding to this movement? Who would you say your restaurant is for?

While my restaurant is open to everyone, I've been truly delighted to witness a significant turnout from the Caribbean community. There's an immense joy in having one's own people enthusiastically support the vision behind the restaurant. It's incredibly fulfilling to see our community embrace and thrive within the realm of vegan dining. The shared enthusiasm for plant-based cuisine is not just about food; it's about fostering a sense of community and shared values, creating a space where our Caribbean identity is celebrated within the vibrant tapestry of the growing vegan community.



HAAM is located in NYC. Follow them on IG and keep an eye out for their brunch menu launching in the spring. 

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