Tabitha Brown talks about why she wanted to be considered “America’s Mom” and what the title means to her. She talks about how striving to manage health issues and chronic pain led her to pursue a vegan lifestyle and the ways it has improved her quality of life and perspective.
Tabitha Brown talks about why she wanted to be considered “America’s Mom” and what the title means to her. She talks about how striving to manage health issues and chronic pain led her to pursue a vegan lifestyle and the ways it has improved her quality of life and perspective. Tabitha reveals her family’s favorite plant-based dinner and some of her go-to vegan substitutes. She talks about her new show, It’s CompliPlated, and how it reflects her real-life issues of finding meals that work for her family’s various preferences and dietary requirements. Tabitha shares the upcoming projects she is excited about and the mindset that has contributed to her success.
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Learn More About It’s CompliPlated: https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/its-compliplated
Find episode transcripts here: https://food-network-obsessed.simplecast.com/episodes/tabitha-brown-on-finding-freedom-feeding-the-soul
Jaymee Sire (00:03):
Hello. Hello and welcome to Food Network Obsessed. This is the podcast where we dish on all things, food with your favorite chefs, food influencers and food network stars. I'm your host, Jaymee Sire. And today we have the mother of social media on the podcast to talk about her rise through viral videos, veganism and warm words of encouragement. She is an actress, vegan foodie, New York times bestselling author. And now the host of the new show. It's complicated. Let's welcome. Tabitha brown, Tabitha. Welcome to the podcast. I am. So looking forward to chatting with you, uh, you are affectionately referred to as America's mom. What does that title mean to you?
Tabitha Brown (00:58):
Oh, you know, it's so funny because for years and years, as an actress, I always wanted to be known as like America's mom. Cause I grew up loving Claire Hable and she was like, America's mom to me. Yes. And I wanted, I wanted to have a TV show one day because you know, I'm an actress. And I was like, that's what I wanted. Y'all wanna be that have that type of character where people look at me like she's America's mom. And then when people started calling me that on TikTok, I was like, oh wow. I never thought that people would think just me being me was, you know, would give them that feeling. And it's such a, you know, special thing to me, I think, you know, when I meet people, some people that are like my age that still like, you feel like you have a mother energy, even to me. Right.
Jaymee Sire (01:39):
Tabitha Brown (01:40):
I just, I mean, it's such a compliment, right? To feel like that to people that means, you know, I make people feel safe and I make 'em feel loved and it is just a great feeling. I love it.
Jaymee Sire (01:51):
Well, I, I love the feeling that you give to all of us as we, you know, get to watch you on screen. Um, because it, you do feel it, you have this presence that I think, you know, both on and off social media is just a sunny mix of wisdom humor. Um, and then of course advocating for a plant-based lifestyle as well for someone who's maybe not as familiar with your story and your path. Can you share a little bit about your journey from the Southern meat centric meals of your hometown in North Carolina to becoming a huge voice in the vegan community?
Tabitha Brown (02:23):
Oh, wow, honey. Yeah. I always tell people, I, I didn't go vegan honey, not how I was raised
Jaymee Sire (02:49):
Tabitha Brown (02:49):
I'll never go back to red meat and pork, but I can do the fish and chicken. And then, you know, for like 20 years almost I was eating that and I started getting sick in 2016 and I had these terrible headaches, um, in the back of my head every day for a year and seven months. And I started having chronic fatigue and pain throughout my body and depression because the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. And they said it was something autoimmune, but they could never figure it out. I had every test, you can imagine blood work, MRIs injections in my head injections in my spine and nothing would work. And then my daughter came home from school one day and was like, we saw this documentary at school, mom. I think you should watch it. And it was uh, what the health on Netflix. And I was like, well it ain't never dead teenager, come home and tell you to watch a documentary girl pop.
Jaymee Sire (03:35):
Tabitha Brown (03:36):
Pop the popcorn, let's see what's going on. You know, and when I watched it, I was like, Hmm, it was kinda like a light bulb moment for me when they were talking about, you know, not all diseases or hereditary is that we eat the same thing in our family causing the same disease in our bloodline, you know? Mm. And so for me, my mom died at 51 of a very rare disease. ALS there's no cause or cure. Uh, my daddy just turned 70 last year, the first man in our family to ever hit 70. Wow. And people get sick in young ages and they die young ages in my family. And the only common denominator I could think of was how we ate. And it was also the only thing I had not tried. And so I was like, you know what, I'm gonna give it a 30 day challenge and see what happened.
Tabitha Brown (04:15):
And in the first 10 days of doing a vegan challenge, uh, my headaches disappeared. Wow. And I was like, Ooh, I must be on to something. And so after the 30 days I never went back and then I told my husband, you know, cuz we did it together as a family. Mm-hmm
Jaymee Sire (04:40):
Tabitha Brown (04:41):
That's your business. Okay. Because, and I always tell people that because sometimes you gotta be willing to go on a journey alone, but that's also why the show is so real because I was having to make two and three different meals in my house because I was on the journey by myself. So, but that's how it happened.
Jaymee Sire (04:54):
Yeah. No. And we will definitely talk more about the show in just a bit. Um, did, did anybody else in your family stick with it? Are you, are you still the only one going strong?
Tabitha Brown (05:02):
So crazy enough the next year I was vegan by myself for the first year. And then my daughter joined me a year after and she was like, I wanna do it now. And so then she was vegan with me for three years. And then the year after that, my husband decided on his own. Okay. I wanna do vegan, you know, as well. And so he did it for a year. Both of them lasted for like two and three years. And now they both went back to like fish and chicken. Okay. Nobody, you know, my kids have never eaten like red meat, pork, cuz I never had that since they were born, but they both eat fish and chicken. Now my son, however, who is 10, he will tell you, I have never been vegan. I will eat vegan something. My mom cooks, but he is always eating real regular pizza. And he'll tell you, he eats real chicken nuggets. And I'm like, okay, we.
Tabitha Brown (05:47):
We know son. We know. So yeah, it's, it is just me by myself now all over again.
Jaymee Sire (05:52):
But I'm sure that they eat some of the, the, the vegan items that you make and, and what do they think of it? Do they think it's like comparable to, to the meat? You know, real thing kind of thing or, or they.
Tabitha Brown (06:03):
Jaymee Sire (06:40):
What, uh, what all goes into the, the vegan lasagna?
Tabitha Brown (06:44):
Ooh. So depends on which one I'm making. I do one that's like eggplant when I'm trying to do right by my life. You know, when I be like, I ain't gonna eat all the carbs today, I'm gonna just, I'm gonna do eggplant, but I will use sometimes I'll use all veggies, but sometimes I'll add like a, a vegan sausage, like a apples sausage and I'll grind it up with zucchini, uh, yellow squash, peppers, onions, mushrooms. And I grind it all up in like a chopper. So that's like my meat base. And then I layer it with like a, uh, you know, a vegan cheese and I use two different kinds cuz you know, you gotta have a little flavor, you know of I use a little garlic powder, right. And season it herbs and spices and then I just layer it and then I have my lasagna sauce, right?
Tabitha Brown (07:24):
Like a tomato paste. Sometimes I'll do it myself with like crush, um, tomatoes and garlic and onion and blend it to puree or honey, I'll get a good old jar from the store. You know, you can get your store about, get whatever your favorite tomato paste was. Uh, spaghetti sauces, layer it all up with the cheese and just keep layering it with your, uh, noodles. Now, some people love those, uh, no bake, what is it? The uh, mm-hmm,
Jaymee Sire (08:03):
Tabitha Brown (08:05):
It's very good. It's very good.
Jaymee Sire (08:07):
Good. Yeah. No, it's a great way to pack in the veggies as well. I mean, you mentioned the, the plant-based cheeses that you use, what are some of your favorite plant-based ingredient substitutes or just meals in general?
Tabitha Brown (08:19):
Like, well, like you mean brand wise? Which ones I like or?
Jaymee Sire (08:22):
Yeah. Or, or even just like, um, you know, like a cashew cheese over, over a different type of, of, of plant-based cheese or, or, or things that people, you know, that are maybe just starting out on their own, you know, plant-based journey that they don't really know about.
Tabitha Brown (08:37):
Oh yeah. There's so many now. Right. Cheese is one of my favorite things. I probably went yesterday and bought like three different kinds. Cuz I had a, had a taste for like some cheese with like some wine
Jaymee Sire (08:50):
I wanna bite myself over to that.
Tabitha Brown (08:52):
Any, anytime you come on over, but you know, know MI Yoko's, uh, she makes amazing cheese, all different, you know, kind and it's uh, coconut base. And then there's also cheeses that are cashew based or chick P base. I love them all depending on what I'm using them for. Right. So if I'm making Mac and cheese, I combine 'em all. Cause I like a good four or five cheese blend in my, uh, Mac and cheese, especially if I'm gonna bake it. Cuz I like a little sharp and believe it or not, we have, we got sharp cheddar, right? Vegans got sharp CHED. We've got medium cheddar, all the things. Um, shredded cheese, my husband, my son, they well, not my son, but my daughter, they love like their shredded cheese on their tacos. I made that last night and uh, chow makes a good Mexican blend, um, chow, uh, not chow, but that's the bread, but it's a Mexican BLI and shredded cheese.
Tabitha Brown (09:38):
You know, you can put that on tacos, American style with lettuce and cheese. But then if you have a burger thing, you, you, if you anything like me, honey, I still love a good cheeseburger. Okay. That's my business. If I don't wanna do black beans and Bess and all that to make it myself, I would definitely buy like a good old beyond burger. And I okay. I'll actually throw it in my air fryer or I'll put it on my cast iron skill it, if I'm not going outside to the grill and it's so good. And then you let it, it's so good. And then there's a, a follow your heart, like a Swiss cheese. And I put it on there and I have some mushroom saute to put it on there. It's just such a comfort food. All the things that you think you can't have anymore is what I always like to try to make. Cuz that's really the reason that people don't go vegan. Right. Cause they're like, Ooh honey, I'm gonna miss this. I'm gonna miss that. So my goal when I first went was to try to find all the things that I knew I would miss mm-hmm
Jaymee Sire (10:37):
Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I mean, you're obviously a pro at it by now, but uh, and you mentioned, you know, the headaches and, and these kind of things that have, have really helped, you know, been helped by your, your vegan diet. Um, how has it changed your life and your perspective on food as a whole?
Tabitha Brown (10:55):
Ooh, well, it's it changed my life cuz it saved my life. Right? Mm. I never really used to think about food as medicine. And for a long time I had a, a problem I think, with how I looked at food. Right. And how I looked at myself, cuz sometimes, you know, as a, as an actress and being in the industry, I was very focused on how I looked. I wasn't focused on how I felt. Mm. Which is not a good thing. It's it's, it's kind of tough. Right. Mm-hmm
Tabitha Brown (11:44):
And so it really opened my eyes up to that. And you know, I didn't go vegan because I was like this animal activist or you know, anything like that. But it did open my eyes up to the world, to the, to the animals, to the environment, all the things that me choosing plants over animals is helping. Right. And just having more compassion for people for myself, it helped me with depression. It helped me with anxiety. It really just changed how I look at everything. I, I guess, you know, when you are making a decision to not eat death anymore, but eat life, it just changes things. Right. It's just, and I never thought about that and I'm never one of those people that's like, oh, you should never eat this way. Cuz I'd be a hypocrite. And I ate that way for more than half my life.
Tabitha Brown (12:34):
Right. But I always just share how I do eat and how I do live. And it did change my life. Making videos of food was never something I thought I would do ever. Honey, I ain't have no desire to cook. I'm an, I'm an actress. I'm a trained actress living in LA trying to, you know, pursue an act and never one time that I think I would be cooking videos for a living, you know, doing cooking videos, but it did change my life. And now it's part of me. I still do so many other things, but it's a huge part of who I am and how people came to know me.
Jaymee Sire (13:06):
Yeah. I mean, your star is certainly shining brighter than ever right now. And as we've covered, you are an expert at creating these tasty dishes regardless of the dietary requirements or restrictions, which I think makes you the perfect host for your new food network show. It's complicated.
Tabitha Brown (13:28):
What, listen, it is complicated says it all right.
Jaymee Sire (13:59):
Tabitha Brown (14:00):
And so I was like, I can't keep making four and five different meals every day. I gotta figure out one meal that everybody loves. And then I realized I'm not the only person as I would cook live people. The comments would come in all the time. Like, oh my God, girl, how, how are you cooking one meal? Cuz my son won't eat anything green. My husband only wants ribs this.
Tabitha Brown (14:20):
You know? And I was like, that's the world? And so I was like, that is the show. Like people are gonna love that. They're gonna relate to it. Yeah. Cause you know, some people now are gluten free. Some people like me, they're vegan. Some people have all kinds of, you know, allergies. It's so many different things that we all struggle with even going to dinner, you know, you'd be like, oh Lord, I don't know if I wanna go dinner with her.
Jaymee Sire (14:42):
Tabitha Brown (14:42):
She gonna be order? It's gonna take her 20 minutes to order her order gonna be wrong or whatever. But it's the same with people in their house for uh, parties or holidays. You're like, like, okay, can I cook something that everybody will love? And so that's what my hope is that people will watch the show and realize, oh my goodness, I, I know somebody with them, same issues and they cooked this one meal and everybody loved it. I'm gonna do that. So it'll open our minds up and we'll get ideas and we all come together. That's really what it is. It's really about bringing the, your family, your friends all back to the table together. So we don't have to separate to eat a meal.
Jaymee Sire (15:16):
Yeah. I mean, I think it really reflects, like you're saying these real life circumstances at the dinner table, mm-hmm,
Tabitha Brown (15:53):
Whew. What is something I don't eat? It's very, not many things, honey. Uh, shoot. I can't think of something that I don't care for. I'm a big foodie. Right?
Jaymee Sire (16:21):
Like, so your only thing is that it, it has to be, plant-based basically on the show. So everything on the show is plant-based and then there's some other nuanced, uh, restrictions or requests from some of the judges. Correct?
Tabitha Brown (16:32):
Right. Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. I love that. Yeah.
Jaymee Sire (16:35):
Also one of my favorites, Monique Chohan, uh, is one of the judges on the show as well. She is, I love her such a sweetheart. What was it like working with her and just kind of observing how she approaches the judging process.
Tabitha Brown (16:45):
Listen, first of all, I love her endlessly. I like, I feel like she's my spirit. I just love, love, love her so much. Uh, it was love at, for sight for, for us with both foodies, but she is my expert, right? Yes. I, I, you know, I'm, I'm a mom who just cooks for her family. I ain't went to nobody's school. I'm not a chef. I am just a real everyday cook Monique, be knowing the techniques, the terms, like all kinds of things. And I just, I, I mean all when I just hear the things that come to her mind, but what I loved is that because she's not like a vegan chef, although she does a lot of like plant-based cooking. I could even tell her things that blew her mind. And I was like, boom, I told Monique something that she didn't know, you know? So it was just us going back and forth with ideas and things. It was just amazing. But just to her encouragement with the chefs and helping them with different things, just watching her in that element and just knowing that she's a part of like now she's my family. I was just so happy. But it was, it was, it was such an experience. I can't wait to do do it again with her. She's just so amazing.
Jaymee Sire (17:51):
Yeah, no, I love watching the two of you because you both bring, you know, definitely some warmth to the camera. Tabitha is on a new show called it's complicated and she's telling us all about it up next, but I'm curious, you know, obviously, you know, you had that fateful review of a whole food sandwich while you were an Uber driver
Tabitha Brown (18:27):
Freedom. Mmm. I finally found myself and allowed myself just to be me and I'll never ever go back. Right. This is who I am when I just decided that, you know what, I'm enough just as God created me, this tab is enough. My whole world changed. Mm that's it.
Jaymee Sire (18:49):
That's it. I love that. So what's so what's next. What's next for Tabitha?
Tabitha Brown (18:55):
Oh my goodness. Well, so many things are happening. Uh, of course I have my, uh, cookbook coming out this fall in October. I'm super excited about that. It's my first cookbook.
Jaymee Sire (19:03):
Tabitha Brown (19:04):
Yeah. Thank you today. We just announced my second collection at target. So I'm doing home office, I'm doing furniture and like, you know, home decor and some fun things that everybody will love is just, you know, trying to bring joy to your home space and your home office also for your dogs. Cuz I have a dog that I love is like my baby too. And so I did like a dog collection with dog beds and fun, little scarfs and toys and things like that. And so, yeah. And right now I'm really looking forward to taking a good little break
Jaymee Sire (19:34):
Yeah, you deserve it. You've been a busy lady.
Tabitha Brown (19:38):
I'm looking forward to that. I just finished, uh, shooting tap time, which is my children's show season two and we just finished last week. And so I was like, oh, I'm gonna take me a little break for a little while before I go on tour in the fall for my cookbook. And before the, you know, the show comes out in the next collection at target comes out. And so, um, but yeah, spending time with my family and I, I really miss just being home sometime and cooking in the kitchen. Mm. And doing like the, the old videos I used to do, it's just, that's, it's such a good feeling. It's just like, this is natural living. And I get to share, go in my garden for a little while and share what's happening in there. And you know, just, just simple things.
Jaymee Sire (20:17):
Well, we, uh, so enjoy watching all of that and, and so appreciate you sharing your lives with everyone. And, uh, we are so looking forward to watching the show on food network as well. It's complicated. I know you're very busy. So we are going to just finish things off with a little rapid fire round. And then we have one final question that we ask all of our guests here on Food Network Obsessed.
Tabitha Brown (20:39):
Oh, okay. I like it
Jaymee Sire (20:40):
All. All right. Rapid fire questions. Your go-to comfort meal.
Tabitha Brown (20:44):
Ooh, Mac and cheese.
Jaymee Sire (20:46):
Tabitha Brown (20:49):
Jaymee Sire (20:51):
Uh, your most used kitchen tool.
Tabitha Brown (20:54):
Ooh, Sheena. That's my, uh, she, my spa. She's my spatula. She got her own name.
Jaymee Sire (20:59):
I love it. I love it. Does she have any friends? Does she need a friend?
Tabitha Brown (21:03):
Well you know what? I have a big night that I call Fred. And so yeah.
Jaymee Sire (21:10):
Tabitha Brown (21:11):
All them hang out together.
Jaymee Sire (21:12):
Favorite late night snack.
Tabitha Brown (21:14):
Ooh, uh, vegan cheese and, and wine
Jaymee Sire (21:18):
Tabitha Brown (21:21):
Well kill. My name of course is of course my own restaurant. Yes.
Jaymee Sire (21:27):
You are so many people's inspirations. So who is your inspiration?
Tabitha Brown (21:33):
Oh, my mom. My mom is still my inspiration. She's you know, she's been gone for almost 15 years, but the way she lived her life and the grace that she gave to everyone, she encountered the compassion that lived through her. That is my inspiration every day. If I could just be this amount, you know, a small amount of the woman, she was honey, I'm doing all right.
Jaymee Sire (21:53):
I love that. All right. Last rapid fire. The whole world is listening to you for just a moment. What would you say?
Tabitha Brown (22:01):
Oh, for just a moment, honey, you know, no matter what is happening in your life, whether good or bad it is temporary and it will pass. So look forward to all the positive things. Sunny, cuz they're yours to come.
Jaymee Sire (22:15):
Mm yeah. Great advice. That is a great thing to say to the entire world
Tabitha Brown (22:19):
Jaymee Sire (22:21):
So our last question is what would be on the menu for your perfect food day? So we wanna hear, you know, ideally like perfect day. What are you eating for? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert. There are no rules. You can time travel.
Tabitha Brown (22:48):
Okay. Well, perfect food day. We will start with avocado toes. Okay. Right. I love avocado toes. Um, I love it with, uh, do pickles on top, a little red onion, a little, uh, cilantro, little Kelly's Parmesan. Uh, it's like a, a cashew Parmesan that you sprinkle on and she has a lemon pepper flavor. It's so good. Put that on there.
Jaymee Sire (23:07):
Tabitha Brown (23:08):
But a little slice of tomato. That is that's our breakfast, right? Sounds like half of a sandwich, but that's our, that's our business.
Jaymee Sire (23:14):
I love it.
Tabitha Brown (23:17):
Right? I can do that. It's my day. And then for lunch, I let's see what I would have probably because I, you know, if I eat that I might go with, uh, a tuna milk mm-hmm
Jaymee Sire (24:31):
Tabitha Brown (24:34):
Are you having just watering?
Jaymee Sire (24:35):
Are you? I know my stomach just growled.
Tabitha Brown (24:41):
I’m not a big sweets person. Thank God, honey. They'd even rolling me around
Jaymee Sire (24:55):
I was gonna say the wine
Tabitha Brown (24:56):
That's that? That's my dessert right there.
Jaymee Sire (24:59):
There you go. You can have some wine and, uh, cheese for dessert.
Tabitha Brown (25:01):
That's right. And that's my business.
Jaymee Sire (25:04):
Tabitha Brown (25:19):
Thank you. I appreciate that. Should we end it the way I end all my videos?
Jaymee Sire (25:23):
Yeah, let's do it
Tabitha Brown (25:24):
Well very well for first of all, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you. Yes. All right. Now, uh, y'all going about y'all business, honey, and have the most amazing day. But even if you can't have a good one, don't you, they go messing up. Nobody else's hand. Very good.
Jaymee Sire (25:40):
Jaymee Sire (25:41):
That was so fitting. Thank you so much again.
Tabitha Brown (25:42):
All right. Thank you so much, hun. So nice to meet you.
Jaymee Sire (25:46):
Jaymee Sire (25:51):
After falling Tabitha for quite some time, I cannot believe I finally got to receive her joy so directly, and I hope you guys all enjoyed it as well. You can catch more of Tabitha on its complicated, premiering Thursday, August 11th at ten ninth central on food network and streaming on discovery. Plus, thanks so much for listening and make sure to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. So you don't miss a thing. And if you enjoy today's episode, please rate and review. We love it. When you do that, that's all for now. We'll catch you foodies next Friday.