Southerners are no stranger to plates piled with fried chicken, homemade biscuits, turnip greens and mac and cheese. At The Southern V, these Southern staples are transformed into something unexpected: plant-based vegan comfort food. Tiffany and Clifton Hancock are the husband-and-wife team behind the city’s only vegan soul food restaurant. Tiffany, the wife half of the duo, marries two food philosophies to bring Nashvillians vegan soul food with familiar flavors that will take you back to your mama’s kitchen. At the Southern V, Tiffany celebrates the culinary culture of the South, where she was born and raised, by creating fried chick’n, barbecue sliders and burgers — all of which are vegan, of course. As a business owner, cook, baker, wife and mom, Tiffany’s plate is overflowing, but she always has enough time to fill your plate with delicious, Southern-style, plant-based comfort food. Meet this notable member of the Nashville community, Tiffany Hancock, our newest FACE of Nashville.
Tell us about your background.
I am originally from Knoxville, TN, and I moved to Nashville about 17 years ago for college. I am a creative, “Jill-of-all-trades” kind of person, really. I love anything hands-on that gives me the freedom to make magic! However, never in a million years would I have thought starting a restaurant would be in my future. I’ll let you in on a secret — I’ve never worked in the food service industry prior to The Southern V. My love for food was inspired by sitting around in the kitchen, as a child, watching and tasting my mother’s and grandmother’s delicious creations. I was a fast learner. So fast, that I remember my mother allowing me to prepare and cook our family dinner a couple nights a week at 7 years old! I use some of those childhood flavors and dishes to recreate that nostalgic moment in my kitchen today.
You started at farmers’ markets and have since expanded into a new space. Tell us about this growth.
What started out as a light, fluffy, vegan glazed donut to combat my postpartum cravings, spiraled into a vegan eatery that vegans and non-vegans enjoy. Our growth was organic with us primarily using Instagram and Facebook. The word spread about our baked goods at the local farmer’s market, and soon we found ourselves questioning if we should introduce savory items into our lineup. That was answered when we debuted our Chick’n Biscuits at the first Vegfest in April 2016. The response was so positive that I told my husband that we must find a way to bring these items to the people, as I see it as my gift to the Nashville community.
What is your approach to food, and why you have chosen to focus on vegan soul food?
My approach to food is being creative, and due to being from the South, I’m naturally inclined toward the flavors that are produced in this region. I love to make all types of cuisines, but this was something Nashville needed, and it was not accessible at the time.
How have people responded to vegan soul food?
There have been numerous positive emails, posts and interactions with our guests on how our food has given them a new perspective on veganism or plant-based eating. Many of our guests are not vegan and cannot fathom the idea of vegan fried chick’n or using fruit to make a mock pulled pork substitute. Their reactions are absolutely priceless.
What are the most popular items on the menu?
The most popular item on the menu is the Nashville hot chick’n strips. Make no mistake, they are spicy, but the individual strips served with your choice of dipping sauce allows for just the right amount of heat. Also, our regular chick’n biscuits, hot chick’n biscuits and chick’n and waffles during weekend breakfast are always a hit!
Tell us about the decision to open a space in the Buchanan Arts District. What made this the right place to set up shop? What is your hope for the future of the neighborhood?
The North Nashville area is rich with history and potential, but it was truly a food desert with limited options. However, it is transforming rapidly. My hope for the future of the neighborhood is that residents, new and old, have more access to cleaner, healthier food options and are willing to have open dialogue about how to keep the community thriving.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, professionally?
Understanding that one cannot please everyone. As long as I give 110%, there is nothing more anyone can ask of you.
What is one ingredient we can always find in your kitchen?
Sriracha! We like things spicy around here!
Where can we find you when you aren’t working?
When I’m not working, you can find me sleeping! Being a restaurant owner/operator, you assume many hats. I’m currently the sole baker and cook for the restaurant and any outside events/catering we do. My husband handles all the managerial, front-of-the-house work. Outside of catching up on rest, we have two brilliant daughters who I homeschool. Any other available time is spent creating memories with our family.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and from whom?
I received the best piece of advice from my wonderful grandfather, Dr. Howard Senter. He went through many struggles to become the first black veterinarian licensed to practice in Tennessee. His mantra was “Never let anyone steal your dream.” I live by that mantra today, and his beautiful spirit encourages me daily.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Extremely difficult one here, hmmmm … good books, earl grey tea and my fluffy blanket!
Before we embark on a new year of FACES of TriStar, we want to look back once more at our 2018 FACES of TriStar, each one an inspiration in their own way. Click HERE!