Going mobile: Vegan comfort food caterer Squash the Beef raises funds to buy a food trailer

Kurtis Williams and Candace Maiden decided to go vegan in 2017 after learning about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. While Williams says he struggled at first with the new diet, he soon began experimenting with cooking vegan cuisine that he found both satisfying an delicious.

“When you’re vegan, you still want your food to taste good,” says Maiden. With some experimenting and traveling around North America to sample some of the best plant-based restaurant cuisine, Williams and Maiden have succeeded in creating tasty vegan comfort food.

<span class="content-image-text">Kurtis Williams Sr. (left) with Candace Maiden, co-owners of Squash the Beef</span>Kurtis Williams Sr. (left) with Candace Maiden, co-owners of Squash the BeefIn March 2019 the pair opened Squash the Beef catering, serving vegan comfort food like “macaroni and cheez,” “fried chick’n,” and peach cobbler at weddings, baby showers, and festivals and public events around Northeast Ohio.

“We have a lot of comfort foods,” says Maiden. “We saw a need for traditional southern food, but vegan, in the marketplace.”

Working out the Central Kitchen Food Hub, a 137,500-square-foot craft food production space, Squash the Beef has seen both their business and menu grow in a little more than a year since it first launched.

Now Maiden and Williams are taking Squash the Beef on the road with their eyes on a new food trailer that will allow them to go mobile. They have launched a Honeycomb Credit campaign to help buy a good trailer

Like many businesses, Williams and Maiden have seen a drastic decline in bookings in the past four months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“With everything happening with COVID-19 we had to cancel a lot this year,” explains Maiden. She says instead, a lot of potential customers are having food trucks come to their events, and many of their customers have asked Squash the Beef to do the same.

The customers are so supportive that Squash the Beef already met its minimum funding goal in the Honeycomb Credit campaign. “We have so many loyal customers and fans,” Maiden says.

From the beginning, Squash the Beef has specialized in soul food classics with a vegan spin that make their customers keep coming back for more.

“It’s not your bland, boring food,” Maiden promises. “Kurtis has figured out a way to make your comfort food really taste like the real thing.”

Williams first tried out creations at a vegan chili contest—and won—and he hasn’t stopped making plant-based comfort dishes that mimic their non-vegan traditional versions.

“I value what people think and what they want to taste,” he says. “I just want to make it [delicious] for everyone across the board.”

Popular menu items include the fried chick’n, vegan shrimp, BBQ jackfruit, and the comfort cone (dirty grits, macaroni and cheez, fried chick’n, and maple syrup in a waffle cone). “If we put the vegan fried chicken on the menu, it sells out every time,” Maiden says. “Once people have tried it, you are hooked.”

The kale lemonade is always the popular drink to go with any Squash the Beef meal or snack, Williams and Maiden say, adding that the food trailer will provide the mobility they need to bring their cuisine to a wider audience.

Click here to find out more about the campaign or to make an investment in Squash the Beef.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.