Miss Rachel is a vegan chef and caterer who treats her clients in the the Philadelphia area to some amazing vegan eats. Her company, Miss Rachel’s Pantry, is a business that is flourishing on excellent customer service and word of (satisfied) mouths.
Not so very long ago, you would have found Miss Rachel in the running gears of the every day grind. But trading in her computer and 9 – 5 job at a well known apparel manufacturer for an apron and rolling pin was a decision she knew she would never regret.
SS: How long have you enjoyed cooking and when did you become a chef?
MR: I have been cooking vegetarian food since the ripe old age of 8, but began vegan-cheffing about 3 years ago.
SS: What made you want to follow a vegan diet?
MR: I became a vegetarian at age 5, not wanting to eat anything with a face (or so my parents say). I went vegan a little over 2 years ago. It only seemed natural. I don’t like the treatment of animals being raised for food, and couldn’t imagine that those being raised for other products are being treated any better.
SS: You had a very good job with a large apparel company, so what do you think pushed you to leave your secure corporate job and start your own business?
MR: Leather goods…well, that’s one reason. The nature of my job was writing product descriptions for a fashion company. There was a shift in my department, and I got stuck writing about women’s shoes–some containing “pony hair” and other bizarrely named words for fur, hair, leather…sort of detaching the consumer from the truth….and I had to touch those damn shoes every day! Ick!
The second reason was that I had already started my own business while working 9 – 5, and I figured if I didn’t make the shift now, I’d be doing the same thing in a year, or 5 years down the line, without the ability to grow my business due my time restraints.
SS: Did anyone inspire you to start your business?
MR: I don’t think it was inspiration as it was reinforcement and support from my family and beau. My dad is a very practical guy, and when he took my idea seriously, I knew I was on to something good. I also have this great boyfriend who is always supporting me and adding to everything I do. When I’m freaking out wondering if this week will be successful, he reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing, and that the beginning is always difficult.
SS: There are so many people making life changes right now… what advice would you give to people who want to change their career?
MR: Don’t jump before you look. I had my own biz for 2 years in conjunction with a stable job. If you want to do something on your own because you think it might be “fun,” you may want to reconsider. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, and be armed with the knowledge that you will mess up, there will be ups and downs, and you can’t be everything to everyone.
SS: What are your future goals for the business?
MR: Lunch truck and prepared shelf-stable soups and a cookbook… oh my!
SS: Let’s talk about your delicious food! What is your favorite vegan dinner?
MR: Changes all the time! Currently I am really digging these hearts of palm dumplings I make. They are seasoned like seafood with Old Bay, then they get a smokey, spicy ‘cream’ sauce and crumbled tempeh bacon. Mmm.
SS: OOOh..I love Old Bay! What about your favorite vegan snack?
MR: Popcorn, spicy pickles… OH! I made a half sandwich today that was the best snack. Vegan potato bread, arugula, avocado and a few slices of Tofurkey deli stuff.
SS: We all get stuck in bad eating habits, and we all know we need to make changes. What would you say to people who think “it’s too hard to change the way I eat”?
MR: I think that food is really personal and if you want to change and are taught how, you will. I don’t forcefeed veganism on anyone; I wouldn’t want someone shoving meat in my face. I get backhanded compliments often – usually at the urban farmer’s market that I sell food at, or at events with mixed company. I get a lot of “wow! That’s actually good.” See what I mean about backhanded? I think that vegan food got a terrible name along the way.
I think the problem is twofold. One – if you’re vegan and don’t have many options where you live, food that’s maybe not so good will seem great to you because you’re just happy to have options. And then non-veggies try it and aren’t so desperate, so don’t see the good in it. Two – a lot of places (at least around here) have vegan options, but they’re made by traditional chefs who don’t even seem to taste the cube of tofu that they barely fry/season and slap on a plate. Finally (another fold…), there’s the whole hippie/kumbaya/crunchy image we have to overcome.
SS: Ha! I agree with the image thing. Some don’t realize that for most, it’s a healthy choice not a political one.
Do you see a positive or negative trend in the way people think about their diets in general?
MR: I think it’s pretty positive! There are more vegans and vegetarians than ever in the US now, and a wider variety of healthy, organic and vegetarian/vegan products available at regular grocery stores than previously. I think the main issue with diets in general is that people equate “low fat” with healthy. Some of those diet bars have high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils – almost like they’re purposely sabotaging consumers. There should be less focus on “thin” and more focus on “healthy living.”
SS: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. How can people contact you if they live in the Philly area and want to taste your food?
MR: They can go to my website for Miss Rachel’s Pantry, and find all the information they need or I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again Miss Rachel! We will be looking forward to your cookbook and maybe some more vegan cooking tips in the future!