Adjoa Courtney

Years of Participation

Adjoa Courtney, known professionally as “Chef Joya,” has a passion for turning basic recipes into exquisite delicacies— a talent that has changed her life. Chef Joya is an award-winning private chef, cookbook author, cultural influencer, and owner of Cooking With Joya. 

Growing up in the Midwest and raised vegan since the age of seven, Joya spent a lot of time in her grandmother’s kitchen absorbing the aroma of the foods she cooked, along with the wisdom that her grandmother preached during these early years. Joya became fascinated by other elders in her community and frequently befriended them in food havens, like international supermarkets, to obtain their authentic recipes. 

After years of honing her culinary skills, Joya began to host dinner parties for her family and friends. She created mind-blowing and awe-inspiring dining experiences that left them amazed and wanting more. From there, she began to blog and offer cooking lessons on her social media platforms. With the love and support of those closest to her, Joya, who at the time was working as a makeup artist and beauty professional, decided to pursue her childhood dreams and become a personal chef. 

Following the plant-based foundation of the foods she grew up on, Joya began to “veganize” traditional recipes that typically contained animal products, which has turned into her specialty. She wanted her food to remind others who were transitioning to veganism of the meals they enjoyed before they became vegan. As Chef Joya experimented with different cultural flavors such as Soul Food, African, Afro-Caribbean, and French, her recipes expanded to include cuisines from across the globe. Recognizing the need for vegan cuisine in many culinary genres, Chef Joya began teaching other chefs how to prepare plant-based meals for their clients. 

Chef Joya travels across the country, winning the hearts and stomachs of communities near and far. She draws in vegans and meat-eaters alike and sells out venues wherever she goes. With several awards, successful restaurant collaborations, and cooking competition titles under her belt, one can find Chef Joya experimenting with dishes, preparing for her next exclusive dinner party, cooking for her celebrity clients, or sharing recipes on Instagram or YouTube via her channel, “Say What! It’s Vegan?” 

Chef Joya’s recent accolades include being named critics’ choice “Best Vegan Chef”(2019 and 2021) and readers’ choice “Best Chef” (2019) in the annual The Best of The Nest issue by Queen City Nerve Alt. Weekly Newspaper, being a featured chef (the only vegan chef) on BuzzFeed’s Tasty social media channels and being selected as a 2021 Women Building the Future Honoree by Vegan Women Summit and Impossible Foods. In addition, she has been featured in several national publications, including The Source Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Parade Magazine, Travel Noire, Black News Channel, and The Beet. Additionally, Chef Joya is the star of “Vegan On A Budget,” a weekly online cooking show presented by Compare Foods.  

In October 2021, Chef Joya continued to flex her creativity and entrepreneurial prowess by debuting her first collection of vegan gourmet seasonings, with more innovative products on the way in 2022. 

Chef Joya currently resides in Charlotte, NC, loves all things colorful and unique, has a penchant for unicorns, and is steadily becoming a formidable force in the vegan culinary industry—one magical meal at a time.