Photo credit: Zutado Soul

Cynthia Hayes Creates Potato Magic with Zutado Soul in North Carolina


What do you get when you take a baked potato, sweet potato or zucchini spirals and add a combination of marinated meats, fresh vegetables, blended spices and top it off with a custom-crafted signature sauce?  A completely healthy meal inspired by a Motown musical name plus the ingenious cooking artistry of Cynthia Hayes, owner of Zutado Soul.  

Traditionally served as a side dish, Zutado Soul transforms the baked or sweet potato food accompaniment into a full or half-sized entree.  Each menu option, along with all specialty menu choices, are assigned distinctive names, which are branded around the theme of making your taste buds sing. 

Customers can also personalize their meals by hand-picking their preferred meats, vegetables, seasonings and signature sauces, uniquely distinguishing each dish.  Vegans opt for alternatives that offer a plant-based approach by substituting the meats for zucchini spirals while still relishing the goodness of the other vegetables and sauces – all of which are a delight.

The Inspiration Behind Zutado Soul 

The influences for Zatado Soul are rooted in family traditions, dating back to Hayes’ early childhood years growing up in Detroit.  She recalls Sunday dinners with a house full of relatives, all of whom would gather at her grandparents’ home listening to Motown music and famous artists like Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, James Brown, Smokie Robinson and Marvin Gaye.  

Reflecting on those days, Hayes fondly remembers the cherished moments spent with her grandparents.  “Our house would be full, with no less than 30 people at a time with my mom in the kitchen cooking enough to feed a small army.”  The kitchen, a central hub of activity, was a testament to the women in the family’s unwavering dedication and culinary prowess.  

“I grew up with several amazing cooks and bakers,” says Hayes.  She goes on to recall with fondness the extensive time that the women in her family would engage in preparing meals.   “My grandmother would soak fruit and nuts for months to prepare her legendary fruit cake.  My mom would also make amazing cakes, pies, fried chicken, and hot water cornbread, pot roasts, and seafood dishes.”  

In the realm of family traditions, Hayes reflects on the importance her family placed on having a well-rounded meal.  “My family emphasized eating a balanced meal complete with meat, vegetables and some sort of starch.”

Just as mealtimes in her home were a celebration of flavors and togetherness, Fridays were days when the table transformed into a feast of oceanic delights.  Hayes has vivid recollections of those times when she speaks.  “Every Friday was a seafood meal complete with crab legs, fish, shrimp, coleslaw, spaghetti, hushpuppies, and the best cool aid ever!”

The above formative years provided a significant foundation for Hayes in paving the way to realize her educational and professional achievements.  She earned a bachelor of science in corporate finance from the University of Detroit, followed by an MBA in computer information systems, which propelled her toward a successful career in the automotive industry.  

However, in 2006, her circumstances took an unexpected turn when she found herself as an unemployed single mother and embarked on a journey to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a job interview.  

By JoEtta Colquitt-Benners

Continue reading over at Cuisine Noir.

Cuisine Noir Magazine is the country’s first Black food publication, launched in 2009 and dedicated to connecting the African diaspora through food, drink and travel.  To read the rest of this article and more, visit

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