Vegan Soul Food Heads To The East Village

Meet Shenarri Greens, chef at Cadence, opening in the spring

A Howard University alum, Shenarri "Greens" Freeman moved from D.C. to New York in 2019 for a culinary degree at Institute for Culinary Education: Through a combination of discipline and good timing, the 27-year-old landed the head chef gig for Cadence, the vegan soul food from Ravi DeRossi's Overthrow Hospitality.

Having developed an appetite for the restaurant world in Washington, Greens started cooking at music venue 9:30 Club and segued to Restaurant Marvin (closed), Jack Rose, SongByrd, and D.C.'s location for Momofuku. 

Shortly into her program at ICE (she's since graduated), Shenarri was out to dinner with a friend at one of the Overthrow Hospitality restaurants, when her friend suggested they hire her. 

"A manager came over and my friend mentioned that I'm a chef," she said. They suggested she apply. A fan of DeRossi restaurants — Amor Y Amargo, Ladybird, Proletariat, Saramsam, and Avant Garden, Shenarri was excited — and took her first job with the group as a manager at Avant Garden shortly after that visit. 

The idea for Cadence "kind of evolved from there," she said. "They had their own idea, but they asked me what I would want to do with the space." The Richmond, Virginia native laser-focused on what's missing around town: vegan soul food. 

Cadence (122 E. 7th St.) is one of a handful of new restaurants from Overthrow Hospitality, with pasta and natural wine spot, Soda Club on track to open on Avenue B, along with vegan Mexican restaurant, Etérea slated for East 5th St. (the working name for the place had been Spider in the Garden). Vegan Filipino restaurant, Saramsam opened in September. 

Shenarri had been working at vegan restaurant, P.S. Kitchen in Times Square, when the pandemic began. When the restaurant closed, as challenging as it has been to lose her job,  she told New York Magazine, "'s been kind of nice to spend some time with myself."

She mentioned two things in her food rotation this past year. "I'm big on juicing," she said, citing herbal tea blends and burdock root among ingredients she's adding. And as a Southerner, grits are essential. "They're creamy. They're comforting. they remind me of my grandmother and my mom," she said. "I'll always have them around."