We partnered up with Toyota Camry to ask Chef Akhi — a celebrity chef, food influencer, and recipe creator — and Miya Bailey — a community organizer, humanitarian and artist — for their takes on how one of the hottest cities in the nation has inspired and influence them.
Chef Ahki wants you to feel better every day by simply eating well. The Atlanta vegan food consultant/health activist believes our well-being is tethered to both our diets and our communities. And for Chef Ahki, there’s no better city than Atlanta for your health and building that strong circle of support.
“Atlanta has certainly shaped my ambition,” Chef Ahki explains. “I think that people would be surprised to see the farm culture, the open-air farmer’s markets, and the agricultural community there.” This access to fresh, local foods has guided Ahki along a path to a life as a healthy chef. She looked around her at her family, friends, and neighbors and saw people getting sick from not eating well and decided to take matters into her own hands. Her goal: To build a community that put health at its center.
Chef Ahki started out by getting herself healthy then moved on to getting her family healthy. She started cooking plant-based recipes over and over again. She didn’t preach and proselytize about veganism. She just made good food that people wanted to eat. Chef Ahki feels that her approach to getting people hooked on plant-based diets came from living in a place as “lit” as Atlanta.
“Atlanta has really taught me to be clear about my business, to consider the far-reaching abilities of my brand overall.” Chef Ahki relays this message while talking about how her home is new and old at the same time so there’s tradition that can be reborn and made anew, like a “ripening” as Chef Ahki calls it.
There’s an excitement and earnestness in her voice when Chef Ahki talks about following her dreams. The support of her hometown allowed her to grow a business that, in turn, helped the health of the same people who supported her. It’s a quid pro quo where everybody wins.
“I feel empowered through my work,” Chef Ahki imparts before continuing, “what I’m doing is making a difference, helping people to get better, and helping to build communities through agricultural and health awareness.” Considering Atlanta’s many farmer’s markets and thriving food scene, it’s easy to see how Chef Ahki can follow her dreams there.
Chef Ahki sees the rebirth of Atlanta as a part of her own rebirth as a health food activist. She was able to develop a new self while holding onto everything she was and the people around her. And that makes her love Atlanta even more. In her words, “I am so proud of Atlanta because we are such a resilient people. We’ve been through a lot of changes, but we continue to just recreate ourselves over and over again.”
It is clear that a strong community is the binding factor that has driven Chef Ahki to up her game. It’s in that community that seems to make Atlanta especially apt at nurturing talented people who want to make a difference locally. People like the artist Miya — another ATL denizen who’s found exaltation by embracing and supporting the community around him.
Miya is a self-described mountain man from the hills of North Carolina, who likes to wear boots and look like an artist’s rendering of an urban lumberjack. He moves around Atlanta’s West End neighborhoods with a good beard and a killer hat. When he arrived in Atlanta, his chill fit in with the world around him and he knew he was home.
Atlanta’s culture was a huge part of why he chose the city to start his life as a tattoo artist.
“I was 19 and I was listening to a lot of the music that was coming out of Atlanta,” Miya tells Uproxx. “I knew it was a good place for me to maybe jump and get my start in my art career.”
Within a mere three days, Miya was tattooing a 16-year-old named Usher with his first tat — a tat he says Usher’s mom never forgave him for. But that chance meeting plugged Miya into Atlanta culture in ways he had only dreamt of in his aspirational journals. Suddenly he was meeting other artists and the mid-90s cultural scene of Atlanta opened up to him.
Life moved on and art gigs started happening. His art was shown in galleries and, eventually, he opened his own tattoo joint. He’s still humble. He knows none of it would have been possible without his adoptive city and it’s denizens supporting him and his art from the start.
“We have a large art community in Atlanta and it’s really unified and it’s just diverse.” Miya continues, “I get my inspiration in Atlanta by just really being part of the art community.”
Miya feels a unity in Atlanta that he finds harder to find amongst the art scenes in New York or Los Angeles. He laments that those city’s scenes dwell more in “classism” instead of “unity.” He breaks the Atlanta art experience down like this, “It’s like with Atlanta, if you good, you just good and you don’t have to worry about being a part of the cool crowd or rubbing elbows with this person, that person.” That openness has kept Miya rooted in ATL.
It’s more than just the art that’s kept Miya in Atlanta though. For him, there’s a sense of belonging that comes from the people and their history. Civil Rights activists centered around Atlanta. This informs his art and empowers his community and he puts his money where his mouth is by making sure 60 percent of his income goes back into the community around him. And that breeds an Atlanta that’s built on something stronger and bigger than any one person.
“Unity is something I really dig on,” Miya declares before wrapping up. “You can be anybody you want to be in Atlanta and if you dope and it’s an original, then they going to support you.”