Two Black-owned businesses make health the priority
Photography by Jonathan Amado
There’s this misconception in the South that Black people don’t like to eat healthy. Some may say that we prefer our food deep fried, extra sweet, or covered in salt and butter. But that’s not true. People in Black communities are very healthy consumers, especially when healthy food options are made available and accessible to them. Smooth Living and Eat Green are just two examples of Black-owned businesses that aim to make eating healthy a priority in all communities, especially Black communities.
Opened by Clemente “Mente” Butts in 2015, Smooth Living is dedicated both to providing healthy food and to educating its customers on its foods’ health benefits.
His “why” for opening Smooth Living was very simple: “I love us [Black people]. I started off as a community activist, but when my father got sick and passed away, that’s when I started being more conscious about what I was putting into my body.”
As he learned more about nutrients, foods, and health, Mente wanted to spread that knowledge throughout his community.
“I wanted to introduce my people to being health conscious,” he says.
Smooth Living now is sharing that knowledge at two locations—the original in Whitehaven and a second location in Raleigh.
Smooth Living started with a focus on smoothies, but today’s menu is more extensive and customer focused—but still with many smoothie options. “Our original diet was taken from us, so we created a new diet,” says Mente. “Now we just need to get back to the basics.”
The smoothie menu is full of fruits and vegetables and includes lots of “benefits” you can add in—like chia, hemp, and flax seeds, as well as chlorophyll, beets, maca root, and matcha green tea.
Although their smoothies are very filling, you might be in the mood for something more. Their delicious wraps, salads, burritos, spuds, and hood [egg] rolls are sure to satisfy you. My favorite is the Turmeric Grilled Chicken Wrap. It’s just good! “The customers actually created the menu; I just make sure it’s run properly,” jokes Mente.
You will not find pork and beef on Smooth Living’s menu. “I will never have beef or pork on the menu. My brand is about health. My brand is my brand,” promised Mente.
Travis Parish is one of Smooth Living’s loyal customers. “It’s the only option for healthy food around here,” he says. “Plus, the food is good. I like the Salmon Veggie Wrap. And also I like that it’s locally owned.”
Mente is committed to his community and to healthy living. “It’s my job to help people do better and to make them more conscious of what they are putting into their body,” he says.
1271 Winchester Road
5727 Raleigh LaGrange Road
Eat Green Urban Salads
Eat Green Urban Salads is a food truck created by Lavar Jeffries, aka Chef Swagga. But don’t be put off by the food truck’s name—it’s so much more than salads. “I was with the sheriff’s department for 10 years, when my heart and mind started to shift towards entrepreneurship in 2017,” recalls Chef Swagga. “I’m a very healthy guy, and I would always make a salad for my lunch. Soon my co-workers started requesting salads, and it became very lucrative.”
Chef Swagga then began to research food trucks and built his food truck from the ground up. “I knew that I didn’t want to sell unhealthy, processed foods. There’s a stigma that Black people don’t want to eat healthy. So instead of following a trend, I asked myself, ‘How can I make eating salads a trend?’” he says.
In 2020, mid-pandemic, Eat Green Urban Salads was created. “There are no fryers on my food truck,” Chef Swagga explains.
“I stick to my beliefs, and I want to use food to prolong and sustain life.”
Eat Green Urban Salads started off serving only salads, then added wraps, gyros, and even more veggies. It has something delicious for everyone. “I love to adapt to different things. Vegans as well as vegetarians can come and be fulfilled. We also serve chicken, turkey, shrimp, lamb, and salmon,” elaborates Chef Swagga.
When I first tasted Eat Green Urban Salads, I was blown away. The Salmon and Shrimp Wrap was ridiculously delicious. I remember sitting at my desk, wishing I was still hungry, just so I could get another one.
Customer Anjorita Hopson had a similar experience. “The food was amazing. I had the Salmon and Shrimp Wrap. It was well seasoned, very flavorful, and the right size! It was so good that I dripped it all over my shirt!” she says.
Angela Wicks, another highly satisfied customer, ordered the Turkey Salad. “Everything was so fresh,” she says. “Everything about the salads was delicious—from the vegetables, to the turkey, and even the ranch dressing. I would definitely recommend people eat here!”
Chef Swagga’s favorite items are the Salmon Salad and the Salmon Flatbread. He guarantees either will be cooked perfectly, every time. “Just like everything else on the menu!” he says.
Although Chef Swagga has had no prior experience in running a business, Eat Green Urban Salads is doing very well. “I just had the desire,” concludes Chef Swagga. “I’ve learned from my mistakes and stayed consistent and strong.
I still find joy in the community and people telling me that they enjoy our food.”
Patricia Lockhart is a native Memphian who loves to read, write, cook, and eat. Her days are filled with laughter with her four kids and charming husband. By day, she’s a school librarian and a writer, but by night—she’s asleep. @realworkwife
Jonathan Amado is a Memphis-based photographer and barista. Although a California native, he loves Memphis and utilizes his talents to cultivate community and support local businesses. @jonathanamado_