Brandon Edwards: Vegan Restaurant Shokra Soups Gives Cory & Ada X New Vision on Life



BY BRANDON EDWARDS | South Jersey Information Equity Project

WILLINGBOROShokra Soups is a vegan restaurant located in Willingboro, NJ owned by Cory X and his wife Ada X, formerly known as Cory and Ada Cottingham.

As I walked into the restaurant to meet with Cory for this interview, I was overtaken by an ambiance of peace. With the alluring sounds of Neo Soul playing in the background, I looked up at the TV menu to order my food.

On the screen next to the menu was a video of the late great nutritionist, Dr. Sebi breaking down the benefits of healthy eating habits.

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Feeling enlightened, I scanned the menu to order my food and to my pleasant surprise, I saw items with unique titles like, “I am Divine,”, a popular smoothie made with sea moss, an assortment of berries and maca root; and “Heaven on Earth,” a navy bean soup if used with sage that encourages heart and immune system health, and is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins.

But what caught my eye was an item named “Just Breathe,” a serving of three vegan tuna tacos infused with sea moss, bladderwrack and burdock root topped with tomatoes and spring mix. As a seasonal asthmatic, I know how difficult it can be to find meals that support your breathing, so I placed my order with the polite and inviting hostess.

After I ordered my Just Breathe – Vegan Tuna Wrap, my attention was drawn to a little nook in the corner where I sat and ate with Cory X. The food was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t help but notice that this wasn’t just any sitting area, as it also acted as a library and a mini gift shop.

I’m seeing Kwanzaa pillows, books on mental, physical, and spiritual health, along with herbs, and Shokra Soup’s memorabilia. As I began to conduct the interview, a picture of the Most Honorable Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the world-renowned Nation of Islam (NOI), was there smiling at me.

While that was a little odd to me at first, as Cory began to open up, I quickly realized why that picture was there. It is where the story of Shokra Soups begins, with a story as unique as its name.

In 2013 on a construction site in Pennsylvania, Cory X experienced a serious work injury that turned his life upside down. Shattering every bone in his foot, Cory was told that he would never walk again without the help of a wheelchair or a cane.

When he showed up at the doctor’s office a few months later, walking on his own accord and back to work, the doctors were shocked to say the least. When I asked Cory what the driving force around his recovery was, he revealed that during his downtime, he was introduced to a new way of thinking that transformed him.

During his recovery, Cory started studying the teachings of the Nation of Islam, a religious organization, that championed a book called “Eat to Live” written by the N.O.I.’s revered founder Elijah Muhammed. This book is a staple in the Islamic community that expounds on how to eat, what to eat, and why to eat.

It introduces the idea that our energy and vitality of life is directly connected to what we feed our body and our minds. This concept inspired Cory and his wife Ada so much that when the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March rolled around in 2015, Cory made sure to make the trip to Washington, D.C. After hearing Farrakhan speak to the multitudes of men in attendance about passion, solutions, and love for all mankind, Cory decided to go all in on his personal journey, dedicating his time, energy, and life to the betterment of his community.

He said his hometown of Willingboro was the perfect place to start. In his effort to better his community, Cory has done it all from business expos to youth empowerment groups, to coaching youth sports teams. And while these endeavors are all still successful to this day, Cory still felt that there was something missing but wasn’t sure what.

Little did he know that what would happen next would set him set him on the path to find his answer.

Unfortunately, in 2018 his wife Ada was diagnosed with cancer. Again faced with seemingly insurmountable odds the Cottingham family had a choice to make: They could either wallow in despair or take action and face the challenge head-on. What do you think they did?

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Ada became laser-focused and submerged herself in the knowledge of healthy living. Yoga, meditation, and diet would be her new weapons of choice as she took cancer head on and Cory was right there by her side.

After seeing a huge difference in their quality of life, Cory and Ada knew what their next community offering would be. It would be something they both knew there that community desperately needed — a Black-owned vegan restaurant.

Thus the idea of Shokra Soups was born. With the leading cause of death being diet-related illness, naturally providing healthy eating alternatives for the community made perfect sense.

But how?

How does a man whose prior work experience was as a foreman in construction, open up a successful vegan restaurant? Ironically, the answer to this question lies in the same reason he decided to embark on this journey in the first place: his community.

Ada X was the first person to breathe life into this idea. Not only did she support her husband Cory, but her contributions to the name, the ambiance, and the menu remain paramount to its creation.

But unless Cory can secure a location, Shokra Soups will remain just another dream deferred. With loans being so hard to attain and even harder to sustain, Shokra Soups would need some financial help to get off the ground.

Finding his idea stalled where most ideas get stuck and die, another part of his community came to the rescue. His childhood friends and Willingboro natives Chester Vincent and Lance Muhammed came up with an idea that would prove to be the final piece needed to manifest this dream and make Shokra Soups the most unique vegan restaurant in Burlington County.

Not only did they invest in the idea of the restaurant, but they added an idea of their own: a vegan bakery they would call Supreme Sweets. Joining forces, they would be equipped with a business plan that featured two restaurants, run by two families, sharing one kitchen.

A plan that could not be denied by Shokra Soups had the economic power to fund its grand opening and sustain its success for years to come. To this day, Shokra Soups continues to set the example of what it means to eat and live a healthy lifestyle. With balance, determination, and community, they show us that anything is possible.

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