By Léo Azambuja

Hollan Hamid has been sharing her love for vegan cuisine for 15 years. Contributed photo

The need for a healthier lifestyle and a passion for cooking and sharing delicious meals were the perfect ingredients in a recipe for a professionally trained chef to turn her life around more than a decade ago.

“I just want to teach people how to fall in love with fruits and vegetables. They had such a big impact on my life and my health,” said Hollan Hamid, former owner of a vegan restaurant and author of the vegan cookbook Good Food Gratitude.

For many years, Hollan has set her professional goals on helping others to discover the luscious world of vegan cuisine — consisting solely of plant-based ingredients. And with it, its numerous health benefits.

Hollan began her relationship with vegan cuisine about 15 years ago. As a 30-year-old mother of three, her body was already taking a toll for eating what she called a “standard American diet” her whole life. Overweight, suffering from kidney stones and endometriosis, which led to surgery, she read a book about veganism that changed her life. She immersed herself into a plant-based diet and started creating her own recipes.

“It literally was the difference for me between healthy and not healthy, between being in ease and disease,” she said.

A couple years went by, and Hollan decided she wanted to share her passion for vegan food with others. So, she started a line of baked vegan foods, called Hippie Café.

“I sold it at all the health food stores, and then pretty quickly, I was like, I need a bigger kitchen,” she said, adding that at that time, she was borrowing commercial kitchens from friends on the island. Then she found out the Caffe Coco restaurant in Wailua was for sale, and within a week, she bought it.

Herby avocado toast, a nutrient-rich recipe packed with vitamins, minerals and monounsaturated fatty acids. Contributed photo

“I was just so excited with a dream, and being able to share it with people, and especially people in this community,” Hollan said of her restaurant.

In the next six-and-a-half years, she slowly turned the restaurant’s menu into exclusively vegan. When someone came along about four years ago, willing to buy her restaurant, she sold it and dedicated herself to writing a vegan cookbook.

“I’ve learned so much having a restaurant, in terms of food and the way you put it out, and just doing quantity, and hopefully quality as well,” Hollan said. “Those six-and-a-half years made me 500 percent a better chef.”

By the time she sold Caffe Coco, Hollan had already been thinking on how she would be able to branch out and share her knowledge and passion for vegan food in a larger scale.

“How can I be in their kitchens? How can I get people to eat this way at home? How can I share all the recipes I have that people loved at the café” she said. “And so that’s where the book was born.”

Good Food Gratitude was published in October 2019. The hardcover has 280 pages of illustrated recipes, cooking tips, personal stories, testimonies, and an index that makes it quite easy to find specific cooking ingredients and recipes throughout the book.

The sweet + sticky rice cereal treat requires no baking and it’s easy to make on the fly. Contributed photo

“I wanted to make it very simple. You’ll see that I don’t use a lot of ingredients. I think one of the keys to health is not having too many ingredients,” Hollan said of her cookbook. “It’s really incredible, but we wanted so that anyone could make these recipes.”

Each recipe is accompanied by a full-page picture, making it easy to visualize what you are cooking. The recipes are simple — many have a half-dozen ingredients — and the vast majority of the ingredients are found in local farmers markets and health food stores.

Hollan said some people are closed to the idea of eating vegan, but many don’t realize some of their favorite foods may already be vegan, such as Oreo cookies, hummus, most breads and every fruit and vegetable. Or they may have eaten a vegan meal and didn’t like it. But Hollan asked to not judge the whole vegan cuisine because of one bad experience.

“Vegan food can be really yummy,” she said. “You can have your favorite food and have them vegan.”

A common misconception is that vegan cuisine doesn’t provide enough necessary ingredients to our bodies. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts — the staples of the vegan diet — are rich in fiber, antioxidants and compounds that help to protect against several ailments.

The oui oui French toast doesn’t have eggs and cream, and you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry. Contributed photo

The Mayo Clinic says studies have shown a plant-based diet helps to significantly improve overall health and fight disease. Besides reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and lowering the risk of developing high blood pressure, “eating more plant-based foods can help you lose weight, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease,” according to the nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research.

The Mayo Clinic also says “many experts recommend filling your plate with foods that grow from the ground. Decades of research suggests that the best diet for cancer prevention is all about plants. That means lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes, and little to no meat or other animal products.”

A poorly planned plant-based diet, however, could lack some important nutrients, such as essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, selenium or zinc, according to Medical News Today, one of the fastest growing health information sites in the United States. But all these nutrients can be found in vegan foods, and there is a wealth of information about them on the Internet.

“When I went vegan and I found my health, I wanted to share this with everyone,” Hollan said.”

Kaua‘i is the place where Hollan says she feels the most creative about cooking and making new recipes, because of the amount and diversity of local ingredients and local produce grown by small farmers, and also because of the island’s community.

Hollan Hamid says she found her health after turning to vegan cuisine. Contributed photo

“We all know that living here on Kaua‘i, our life isn’t a vacation,” she said. “But there is a lot of fantasy in it, and there’s a lot of creative energy here.”

Currently, Hollan is working as a private chef and continues to build followers in social media with her cooking videos and tutorials. She is also in the process of writing a second vegan cookbook. This new book, she said, will be more of a replacement guide for those who want to turn their favorite meals into vegan recipes.

“I found out by working with hundreds of people, that most people go back to their comfort foods as a child, no matter what that is to them. I really wanted to teach people how to replace ingredients in their diet, so that they can still have their favorite foods,” Hollan said of her next book. “It’s just a little bit of a different twist.”

Her love for food led her to enroll in the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco at 21 years old. The former California school (it closed in 2017) was a branch of the original Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where culinary icon Julia Child got her degree in 1951, and went on to popularize French cuisine and home cooking in the United States.

Superstar turmeric shot. Contributed photo

For Hollan, she said, food has always been an exchange of love — good food always makes people happy. So it was only natural that when she became vegan, she wanted to share it with others.

“I’m hoping to affect more people by just teaching them simple ways to change the way they eat,” she said of Good Food Gratitude.

You can find Hollan at, where you will be able to buy her cookbook, and find all the links to her social media accounts.

“With the restaurant, with the baking line, with the cookbook, I’ve always just wanted to inspire people, and I hope that it ignites change in them, and that they have their own journey of healing that I experienced,” Hollan said. “I know what the difference is between feeling like you’re not alive and feeling vitality. And for me, it was vegan food that was the tipping point.”





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