Happy Taco Tuesday! Today's Women in Food interview is going to make those of you in DC SO. EXCITED. about what's to come in the world of tacos. Meet Bettina and Suzanne who are the founders of Chaia. Chaia is a farm to taco stop at many of our DC farmers markets but coming soon, they'll have a brick and mortar location here in Georgetown! You know what that means? Me: walking to tacos and making everyday taco Tuesday.
1. Tell us about yourself and your business.
Bettina: Chaia, the first all-vegetable fast casual, is part of a food movement to steer people towards eating a more plant-based diet. I am not a vegetarian, but I eat a well-balanced diet that is weighted toward eating lots of fruits and veggies. The biggest reward I have found in starting this business is that my business partner Suzanne Simon and I have built our mission and our business hand-in-hand. From the very beginning, we fully understood that we needed to do both. Our approach has been near-constant improvement and iteration at every step: something can always be better.
Suzanne: Even though I am from the Midwest, I am not a “meat and potato” person. Growing up, food was always a focus - everything from family dinner, growing vegetables and trying ethnic trends whenever possible. Our business model of serving vegetables and tacos is innovative - but that is what being an entrepreneur is about, putting yourself out there with something new and testing the market. From farmers market to brick and mortar, Chaia continues to grow as a successful business. It has been a lot of really hard work and there is no shut off. Having a strong business partnership with Bettina is crucial.
2. If you could define your food philosophy in one sentence it would be….
Bettina: Good, simple food is meant to be shared and enjoyed -- cook often and with confidence.
Suzanne: Chaia is an extension of our commitment to eating really good, fresh quality food and knowing, as much as possible, the people who grow it.
3. What are your 3 must have foods in your kitchen?
Bettina: Good olive oil, Kosher salt, and natural peanut butter (the last is an easy snack).
Suzanne: Good olive oil, salt and lots of vegetables - an entire meal can be made from these three ingredients.
4. It’s your birthday. What are you eating?
B: A meal made by someone else.
S: My birthday is in March and we are usually in Mexico for spring break, so lots of chips and salsa, guacamole, beans and rice and a margarita.
5. Signature cocktail?
B: At this moment, the Blueberry Smash makes for summer fun. Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. In a separate glass, muddle 1/4-1/3 cup fresh blueberries. Add 1 oz lemon juice and 1 oz simple syrup. Stir. Pour into ice-filled glass. Add 1 1/2 oz Stoli Bluberi Vodka. Stir. Fill glass to top with pink champagne. Mix. Top with several blueberries to garnish. Serve with a straw.
S: A classic Gin + Tonic
6. Food you can’t like no matter how hard you try?
B: I adore best-quality Japanese food and I want to love uni (sea urchin), but I can't seem to get over the texture. I will keep trying.
S: Fake butter at the movie theater. My sister loves it and every time we go to the movies she puts it on so we have to get separate popcorns.
7. What are your go-to resources for all things food (websites/magazines/groceries etc)?
B: First stop is my extensive cookbook collection. I also refer to online and print magazines such as Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and The New York Times.
S: I am inspired by food blogs - Dolly and Oatmeal, Feed Me Phoebe, Food 52 - they make me want to cook.
8. Food fad you wish would die a horrible death?
B: Energy drinks.
S: Foam on food.
9. Must have kitchen tool:
B: A sharp chef's knife.
S: Although expensive, I love having a Vitamix
10. What’s the one thing you learned this year that changed the way you think about food?
B: Rural communities are assets we need to preserve. Less than 1% of Americans are farming (lowest possibly in the world). Only 2% of American farmland is growing fruit and vegetables - the 98% remaining are commodity crops.
S: I attend a Food Tank Summit in Washington DC this year and was shocked to hear stories about child labor, slaves and the poor quality of working conditions in the food industry. It is really appalling.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.