Compassionate CEO Profile: Heather Golden Ray and Jenny Engel

Hey, Sunshine Kitchen, a new plant-based fast-casual restaurant, is owned by the renowned vegan chefs, authors, and moms Jenny Engel and Heather Golden Ray, the masterminds behind Spork Foods. The Culver City, California, restaurant boasts a unique, curated non-GMO menu, and its mission is to inspire the Los Angeles community to embrace healthier eating through the power of plant-based cuisine, contributing to a greener, more sustainable future.

In three words, how would you describe what it’s like to lead Spork Foods and Hey, Sunshine Kitchen?

Wild exciting adventure!

What has surprised you the most in your roles?

Jenny here—it’s been leaning into managing the kitchen and all back-of-house matters. I had worked in restaurants in the past but never in this capacity. The feeling when the team is cohesive and the food is on point and maintaining our standards day in and day out has been challenging—but when customers keep coming back and people are loving the food, it’s very validating! We’re focusing on making the work environment enjoyable for our staff, so I’m in awe of how our team has leveled up as we’ve grown. Each day is a huge learning experience.

Heather is always full of surprises, and the way she’s cultivated relationships with our customers and made them feel so welcome really enhances our community as a whole.

What do you think is the biggest trend in vegan food?

We feel that people are looking for different options when it comes to eating vegan food. For those of us who have been at this for a long time, we’re looking for veggie-heavy dishes that are also satisfying and different from the classic veggie burger we’ve been seeing for decades. We use chickpea flour to create these fluffy, high-protein patties to make our Mediterranean Chickpea Bowl, and they offer a new and delicious option for those looking for clean eating.

People who are new to a vegan lifestyle are looking for meat alternatives that taste just as satisfying as what they’re used to but are also healthy. We’re so fortunate to have a wide variety of products available now that are both non-GMO and vegan and that can deliver familiar tastes and textures. Serve those with a great sauce and some fresh veggies and you can’t go wrong!

The Avocado Crunch Bowl

Which of your recipes are you most excited to make for others?

That’s like picking our favorite child—totally impossible! We do get pretty excited when guests try our Mediterranean Chickpea Bowl because that patty is something we worked on for a very long time. The whole bowl is something we’re super-proud of, being pure, protein-rich, and veggie-forward.

What’s your favorite thing about running a vegan company?

We envisioned starting a vegan restaurant together to offer sustainable and delicious meals to our beloved community. Our philosophy is to create non-GMO plant-based foods that taste amazing without compromising on the textures and flavors people love.

How do you share your compassion for animals with those who aren’t as animal-friendly?

Honestly, when someone comes in and they’re super-hesitant, we buy them a meal. Ten out of 10 times it has gotten the response we were hoping for, that the food tastes amazing and that they love it. We praise those customers for having an open mind. It’s truly one of our favorite things to do. Just yesterday, someone came in and wanted to leave once he heard we were all plant-based. We bought him a “fish” taco, and he ended up ordering two more!

What advice would you give someone who wants to run a completely vegan company?


For many years, as sisters, we lived together (in Echo Park, Silverlake, and Los Feliz) and worked together at an environmental nonprofit org called TreePeople. We built a life around spending time together. We always knew we wanted to work for ourselves and own a sister business. We’re sharing this with you because each of us has a different way we want to spend our time here on Earth. For us, it’s being together and helping animals. For you, it might be something different. We encourage you to meditate and home in on what it is you want out of this life.

We’ve been concerned about the health of the planet and animal welfare since we were teenagers, and in college we decided to go vegan. Twenty years ago, that was still considered a very strange thing to do. Jenny decided to get an environmental law degree to make the biggest impact she could. To relieve the stress, she would cook. Over and over, our friends couldn’t figure out why she was going for the law degree and not the cooking degree! Finally, Heather sat her down one day and told her to forget this law dream and go to culinary school.

Months later, Jenny moved to New York City and attended the Natural Gourmet School.

From there, we started teaching vegan cooking classes out of our apartment in Silverlake. A few years after that, we decided to bet on ourselves and take a leap of faith, signing a lease on a big space in West Hollywood—and it worked.

Our passion drove the business in more ways than one. The love we had for this Earth, animals, and teaching shone through. From opening up our vegan cooking school in 2007 to opening Hey, Sunshine Kitchen, our new restaurant, it was a passionate leap of faith using intuition and love as our guide. We encourage you to do the same! Life is about making changes, even when it’s scary. Look past the fear and focus on the big picture, the positive impact you can make—then DO IT.

What’s next? What innovations or new projects (that you can share) are you cookin’ up?

We always look ahead! Our goal is to open many more Hey, Sunshine Kitchens across the U.S. and beyond as a way to save as many animals as possible and to show everyone how delicious vegan food can be. At this moment, we’re very focused on making our first location a blueprint and foundation so we can grow the business. This is an adventure and a journey, and we have no idea where it will take us, but we’re along for the ride. Chances are that this and so much more will unfold in ways we don’t even anticipate. That’s the best part of this experience!