Voodoo Love: Bringing the Bayou to the Bay
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Pictured above: VooDoo Love Owner and Chef Eva Morris
“VooDoo Love is not a space, it’s a movement,” says Owner and Chef Eva Morris . She’s referring to the creole-nouveau restaurant’s pandemic-provoked shift from a brick and mortar store to a pop-up restaurant.
However, VooDoo Love’s movement and its success is an intergenerational, cross-country journey from New Orleans to the #BlackLivesMatter protests. It’s clear from the restaurant’s explosive success that Morris is not the only one who believes in the power of VooDoo.
What is Creole-Nouveau?
Creole-nouveau is a genre of food that Morris invented. Inspired by the former Vietnamese restaurant that VooDoo Love moved into, her idea was world fusion. “Creole is a melting pot. I wanted to create a new niche of food, using Louisiana style spices but adapted with Vietnamese, Spanish, and other styles of cooking.”
This led to popular dishes such as the soulrito – a burrito made with red beans, rice, and Morris’s famous green sauce. Another unique dish is the Pineapple Bowl for Your Soul, a creole-spiced pineapple fried rice served inside a hollowed out pineapple.
VooDoo Love also serves up the Louisiana classics, such as buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and po’ boys. But Morris emphasized that her take on Creole cuisine “is healthier. You’re actually able to eat the food on a daily basis and still feel good when you leave the restaurant.”
All of the sides are vegetarian and 80% are vegan. While Morris herself is not completely plant-based, one of her top employees is. Morris “wants to make sure that there is something for her to eat every time she comes to work,” even while working with a style of food that is typically meat and dairy-heavy.
Inside VooDoo Love
Morris cares about creating a positive environment for her restaurant’s staff, which includes around ten people. “After working in restaurants for over two decades and seeing what a lack of communication, or a tired or stressed chef chef can do… I never wanted that for my kitchen,” Morris explains.
At VooDoo Love they prioritize open communication, gratefulness, and family. Morris’s efforts are appreciated, “I have staff members who will show up on their day off, and say, “I was just so happy to come to work today,”” Morris says with a smile.
Morris grew up in Richmond and spent her summers in New Orleans with her grandparents. Her mother and grandmother – also named Eva – inspired a lot of her cooking, and some of their secret family recipes are on the menu.
The success has been universal among different communities in the area. “I didn’t know that the whole Bay Area would want [my family’s food] that badly!” Morris exclaims.
VooDoo Love has had guests from New Orleans review them and say, “I thought I was at home,” which is the highest praise for Morris.
VooDoo Love’s success wasn’t always guaranteed. It originally opened at 1599 Howard Street in October 2019, with Morris and her partner at the helm.
The restaurant wasn’t going in the direction that Morris wanted, and the partnership amicably dissolved around two months later. VooDoo Love temporarily closed to adjust its menu and regroup, then reopened on January 27th of this year.
At first, everything ran smoothly. Weekend brunches sold out, and Morris signed a catering contract with the City of San Francisco.
When the pandemic hit, sales dropped to zero because the restaurant hadn’t launched its to-go business yet. Morris and her staff tried to quickly shift to a to-go menu, but she knew that they needed a stronger catalyst.
Luckily, an old restaurant partner of Morris’s had a space that he was not using. VooDoo Love started hosting pop-ups there, at 303 2nd St. The pop-ups gave the restaurant more exposure and business started picking up again.
Participation in the Black Lives Matter Movement
Recently with the #BlackLivesMatter protests and the surge to support Black-owned businesses, people have sought Morris out.
“I’m super excited that we are increasing awareness and that we’re getting the recognition that we deserve as a restaurant. I’m adamant about being very inclusive, and I really appreciate what the whole world is doing right now,” Morris says. “I want to keep the movement going, I want to train and employ people, I want to open up another spot.”
The last wish is already coming true, as VooDoo Love – The Bay is opening next month in Oakland. It will be a to-go only kitchen, with a similar but distinctive menu from its San Francisco location. It has been a whirlwind few months for Morris, who has no plans of slowing down.
“It’s been fun,” she laughs, “I’m having a good time right now.”
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