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Meet Lamondryia “Koko” Nunn, owner of Not Ya Average Leaf vegan food truck

Lamondryia “Koko” Nunn owner of Not Ya Average Leaf, a vegan food truck, where she creates her recipes day to day that includes an extensive menu of chicken sandwiches, burgers, lasagna and barbeque. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)
By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times

A lifestyle change put Birmingham native Lamondryia “Koko” Nunn on the path to entrepreneurship with her creation of Not Ya Average Leaf, a vegan food truck.

After coming out of a Crohn’s disease–induced coma in 2015, and then experiencing flare-ups and constant hospital visits through 2016 and 2019, Nunn realized that incorporating a healthier diet might be the key to fighting the digestive tract inflammation that led to severe abdominal pain and fatigue.

The turning point for Nunn was in December 2019, when she went to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, and underwent a 10-hour surgery to remove part of her colon.
“When I came home [to Birmingham] in January 2020, [after recovering from surgery the month prior], the doctors told me the disease was back. I was also eating a lot of bad food at the time,” she said. “I actually was in [the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)] Hospital, and they told me to just drink clear liquids.”

Eventually, Nunn’s Crohn’s disease was in remission, and she began to feel better—and knew why.

“It was due to me going vegan for just those few months,” she said, adding that from that point forward, in 2020, she decided to go full vegan, adopting an eating lifestyle that abstains from the use of animal products.

“I decided that I wasn’t going to play the victim,” Nunn said. “People’s mouths drop when I tell them my story and what I’ve been through. I don’t really think about it or put the energy into thinking about it, though. I try to live in the moment and keep on pressing forward.”

Nunn established Not Ya Average Leaf to highlight that vegan does not have to be boring. She creates her recipes day to day, but often has an extensive menu that features vegan chicken sandwiches, egg rolls, polish sausage, fried shrimp, burgers, lasagna, barbeque, and tacos.

“A lot of people think veganism is eating nothing but carrots and spinach, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can really customize your food to taste like any regular meal you want. The secret is really the seasoning,” she said.

According to the Vegan Society, established in 1944, “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.”

Early Life

Nunn, 26, didn’t have a “traditional childhood . . .I’ve had Crohn’s since the age of 9,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot of surgeries, a lot of treatments. … So, overall, I was forced to mature and grow up faster than a lot of my friends.”

While she was a student at McAdory High School in McCalla, Nunn had dreams of being a cheerleader.

“I remember wanting to cheer so bad, but I knew I couldn’t because I was often so weak,” she said. “Now I am kind of my own cheerleader in a way. Funny how things can kind of come back full circle to you.”

After graduating from high school in 2013, Nunn studied nursing at Shelton State Community College: “I was around nurses so often that I thought I wanted to become one. I eventually realized that path wasn’t in my destiny.”

She transferred to Lawson State Community College, where she studied business administration. Around that time, in April 2015, her sister, Jahkerryia, 18, passed away from complications with Crohn’s disease. In August of that year, Nunn was placed in a coma with the disease, putting a hold on her studies.

“I couldn’t go to school for a year,” she said. “Then there was always some type of surgery.”

When her disease became more manageable, Nunn enrolled at UAB, where she studied information systems, for which she earned a degree in 2020.

Starting Up

When Nunn decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle, she would replicate dishes and recipes she found on social media. “During the pandemic and when we were all under lockdown, I was so depressed,” she said. “I was looking for ways to make myself feel better.”

“I started [posting] vegan [cooking] videos on Instagram, … [doing] tutorials on how you cook this and how you cook that. I would look at [TikTok videos from] Tabitha Brown, [an actor and self-described vegan influencer]. The videos really helped me at the time. … So, I did a poll one day [on Instagram], and I was like, ‘Do y’all want to see me make? Mushroom shrimp?’ And like 60 people on the poll voted yes. … I was like, ‘OK, I’m doing this for fun, but people really want to see for real.’ Then people soon started to ask how they could buy a plate.”

As sales increased Nunn recruited her mother, Angela, and some of her friends to help deliver plates.

“[Eventually], other business owners and I would set up pop-up shops around local restaurants like Tropicaleo in Birmingham for a few days out the week,” Nunn said.

Not Ya Average Leaf

Over time, she saved up enough to start her own traveling food truck business. A typical day starts with filling up her food truck’s water tank, getting the propane, and then prepping for that day’s menu.

“Some days I might prep for the egg rolls, and other days I’ll prep for the chicken sandwiches,” she said. “Either way I’m always preparing the food fresh and getting a head start on the day.”

Nunn has three employees: her mother; her grandmother, Juanita; and a family friend, Ms. Linda. They typically work Tuesdays through Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Her favorite location has been at the West End Food Truck Park, which is sponsored by the Bushelon Funeral Home.

Nunn prefers the mobile food truck to a brick-and-mortar location because “everything I need is in one place, and I can travel wherever I want at any time,” she said, adding that her goal is to have another food truck.

As for the name of Nunn’s truck, “KoKo”, she said her skin complexion when she was born was “deep like chocolate,” so her family nicknamed her “KoKo”—and she’s been going by that name ever since.

To learn more about Not Ya Average Leaf or to see where the truck will be next, visit www.facebook.com/NotYaAverageLeaf.