This was Jackie Akerberg’s night. Full of hugs and food and beautiful people…but also with a bit of relief.

“It was a year in the making of planning and writing and testing,” Akerberg said.

Her new cookbook is finished. And in the hands of an adoring public…with a proud husband looking on.

“It’s incredible seeing her finding that path and finding her tribe,” said husband, Clinton. “And finding them with something that she just truly loves.”

The room was full of fans, but nothing like the attention Akerberg gets online. Her recipes and presentation have made her a red-hot social media influencer…in short time.

“March 2020, everything shut down,” Akerberg said. “I didn’t have a book I was reading, wasn’t really into TV — so I’m like ‘I’m going to focus 100% on my Instagram’ and I went from 1,000 followers to 10,000 followers in a couple months.”

She’s now at nearly 100,000 followers. She’s got a creative flair, but also an ironic hook — she’s a vegan chef, from red-meat Iowa. Taking down one misconception at a time.

“I think people think vegans are judgmental,” Akerberg admits. “But I’m not thinking less of you because I’m choosing a plant-based lifestyle. You can eat and do whatever you want.”

What she wants is for us to see that our cravings aren’t all that far removed from hers. And the food she’s made for the party seems proof.

“I laugh when they’re like ‘oh, I don’t eat vegan food,’” Akerberg smiled. “I’m like ‘oh, so you don’t like guacamole? You don’t like pasta?’”

Her recipes are full of spices and whole foods –a nd have been so popular on digital, analog wanted a piece. Macmillan Publishing came calling.

“I actually didn’t respond at first,” she laughed. “And then they followed up and said ‘we really want you to write a book!’”

So here you go. Vegan food from the Iowa chef … a book from a social media star … and a finish line for a woman whose road has only just begun.