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Photos by Joe Martinez

During this Black History Month, we’ve connected with some inspirational people in and around St. Louis to share their stories as Black creators and makers who elevate our area. We met with Jayvn Solomon in University City, Cathy Jenkins in Ferguson, and next, we headed to the Shaw neighborhood in St. Louis City. There, we met with the chef and owner of SweetArt, Reine Bayoc, to hear her story.

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Meet Reine Bayoc

“Being a business owner is difficult in any area. It means you work really hard every day. Really hard. For me, and I’m sure many others, it’s easy to see the Strong Black Woman as a monolith. A monolith who works and works. Who forgets about self-care. Working with my daughter, it’s a good reminder to practice what I preach.

Don’t get me wrong, I work hard, but I take time every day for myself. I meditate and pray – that quiet time is so valuable. It’s easy to listen to everyone else when you don’t spend time listening to yourself. Someone asks, ‘Why don’t you have prime rib?’ And you start thinking to yourself, why don’t you? Then you remember you’re a plant-based, vegan restaurant. Of course, we don’t have prime rib! And we know that going plant-based is hard, so we advocate to just try it. Try one or two days a week. Start with one of our Fauxstess Cupcakes. Who can be mad at a cupcake?

I also know that not all plant-based food is good. What we serve is a life-long learning. Even when I leave, I’m still learning and researching. What would this recipe be with arrowroot instead of tapioca? I got started in this business because I would come home after my day job every day and bake. I mean every day. And you can’t eat a cake every day, so I would take them to the neighbor’s house. Eventually, that led to SweetArt and we’ve been open since December 2008. Now, we’re going strong and also launching a vegan cake mix company, Love and Magic Mixes.

I describe my food as a Black grandma’s food – but if grandma was vegan and still thinks she’s hot. I make hot grandma food. And I do start every day with a Hip-Hop Fit routine from Mike Peele.

But if I can do this, I tell my daughter, you can definitely do anything. Proud mom moment, Jurni is here with me working, but she’s studied photography and graphic design. She’s been featured on CNN, Chalk in the Lou.”

For how Jurni describes her mom, “She’s incredible.”