0 comments on “The Common Mistakes Of Diversity and Inclusion Among Our Workplace”

The Common Mistakes Of Diversity and Inclusion Among Our Workplace

Today’s society is being shaped by not only technological advancements, but also by the complex diversity of cultures that surrounds us. And because of that, there has been a huge focus on the importance of being inclusive and fair with employees. Many leaders think they know what diversity and inclusion means, and think they are doing an outstanding job at implementing it. But unfortunately they do not. And here is why.

The most common mistake many company leaders make is assuming these two concepts, diversity and inclusion, are the same or very similar. By being completely ignorant in what these two actually mean, it is impossible that such initiatives will actually work. Most leaders simply do the bare minimum to comply to the regulations of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and disregard to do deeper research on more substantial ways that benefit the current workplace culture. Many just want to be recognized on the typical BS “Top 100 D&I companies of 2019!”. To these leaders, “stop looking for recognition and start thinking how to earn the respect from the actual people in your workplace. Give them influence over the growth of the company” (Llopis, 2017). Make that change and you will find yourself involved in a very successful growth strategy.

So since ignorance is the main problem, let’s solve that. Diversity is mainly seen as bringing people with different skin colors, physical traits, ages, and gender to a work environment. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. People who want to diversify their workplace need to also look at invisible traits such as religion, socio-economic status, cultural and ethical values, work backgrounds, sexual orientation, and even geographic location. It is a collective mixture of differences and similarities that need to be embraced as a whole, not separately. Simply having a wide roster of demographic characteristics won’t make any difference to an organization’s bottom line. Having five colored skin individuals, two bisexuals, and a few female colleagues won’t cut it. It is crucial that besides those factors, you have individuals that encourage their participation, want to know their thought process, and promote innovation. And this is where inclusion finds its place.

Inclusion, on the other hand, is how people behave and ensure a welcomeness feeling to those who are “different”. In a more scientific term, inclusion is “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success” (SHRM).  Not including your employees will negatively impact your business by not allowing it to grow and having employees’ performances decrease. No statistics or fancy graphs need to be displayed here for you to know this is true. I am sure that you have felt not being included in some way – either a friend’s dinner you weren’t invited, a meeting you were not being listened, or even at work when a group of coworkers grabbed lunch without you. That moment sucked, right? Feeling left out feels so painful to us humans because our desire to belong is primal. From the beginning of our species as Homo habilis, we have been taught that in order to survive one must remain with the group. Being excluded meant missing out on resources and protection which led to, not being overly dramatic here but, death. Not saying this will happen to you if you get excluded…

Long story short, as FoodtoEat’s founder Deepti Sharma always says, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”. Last night she even hosted, along with Product of Culture, a communal table dinner event to promote D&I. Three distinct Immigrant NYC based chefs created a three course menu that highlighted their culture and later shared their personal stories with the group. The mission behind this dinner was, besides enjoying the delicious food, to have individuals understand they can in fact promote D&I besides the usual process of hiring women and people of color. They can do so in multiple ways, way funner, by using their purchasing power to invest in small businesses like of those three chefs – either attending their restaurants, ordering their food through FoodtoEat, or going to such dinner events!

Businesses have the transformative power to change and contribute to a more open, diverse and inclusive society. It is a no-brainer the benefits and financial impacts it has proven to our organizations. “Employees in inclusive environments feel appreciated for their unique characteristics and therefore comfortable sharing their ideas and other aspects of their true and authentic selves” (Washington and Patrick, 2018). Stirring away from like-mindedness and embracing and honoring other people’s differences should be the goal of many, or even all of us. Maximizing the full potential of the people and the business will drive growth, innovation and opportunity for both.

 

 

 

 

Citations
https://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2017/01/16/5-reasons-diversity-and-inclusion-fails/#2bda6a350dfe
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/business-case-for-diversity-in-the-workplace/
https://builtin.com/diversity-inclusion
https://www.gallup.com/workplace/242138/requirements-diverse-inclusive-culture.aspx
https://www.forbes.com/sites/danabrownlee/2019/09/15/the-dangers-of-mistaking-diversity-for-inclusion-in-the-workplace/#1411b1924d86
https://hbr.org/2017/02/diversity-doesnt-stick-without-inclusion

 

0 comments on “Natasha Case, CEO and Co-Founder of Coolhaus”

Natasha Case, CEO and Co-Founder of Coolhaus

There are some things in life that makes us feel just so good! Things like jumping in bed after an exhausting day, feeling the sun on your face during a cold winter, or getting an ice cream on a hot summer day… For us, the latter fulfills our feelings the most. Isn’t ice cream the cure for everything? After all, it is cheaper than therapy!

After being criticized for an architectural model that looked like a layered cake, Natasha Case thought to herself “Well, why is that bad!?”. Natasha had the passion for both food and architecture inside of her; she just didn’t know how to put the two together. Food was something she took seriously, as she grew up in a house where having ice cream after dinner was a ritual. So it made sense she evolved her idea into what is now known as “farchitecture” . In 2009, while working at Disney Imagineering, Coolhaus was born “out of the recession to bring awareness to architecture by using something nostalgic and comforting as ice-cream”. She started bringing ice cream sandwiches named after architects like “Mies Vanilla Rohe” and “Frank Behry” to relieve some tension in the office. And after seeing its success, Coolhaus was born from “a triple pun on the name of architect Rem Koolhaas, the Bauhaus movement and the idea that an ice cream sandwich is like a tiny, cold house”.

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Lucky for her, Natasha was introduced at that time to her current business and life partner, Freya Estreller. Freya was in real estate, but also shared the interest in food. After many conversations and finally deciding to take their business to the next level, Coolhaus got its first real job as a food truck vendor at the Coachella Music Festival.  Everything was running smoothly – checked the boxes with giant freezers and enough inventory to sell. But as every startup owner knows, challenges can come up pretty quickly! With as little as $2,700, you can imagine what type of ice cream truck they were able to buy on Craigslist. “We are pretty sure the previous owners were selling drugs out of it. It was a total POS! It didn’t even come with an engine”, said Natasha. So no money, no engine. How DID they manage to get to Coachella? Well, hats down to the creative minds of these two ladies for buying a AAA premier membership to receive a free 200-mile tow all the way to Coachella! Now THAT is some entrepreneurial thinking. And so thanks to their Coachella’s success, an audience was building up in L.A. After expanding their food trucks all the way to New York, Culver City and Pasadena, Coolhaus made its debut in the wholesale industry. They are now also available in more than 6,000 stores like Whole Foods and Safeway and are the biggest women founder and led company, “uniquely taking over the novelty section whereas most of our competitors are playing in the pint space”.

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But it took more than free toll rides and social media to get Coolhaus where it is today. “In the beginning we experienced more age-based bias, where people did not take us seriously. This attitude made those individuals less liable to risk-taking which is necessary to make anything big happen. And by being millennials, we recognized what other millennials actually wanted which gave us a level of authenticity”. Natasha also talked how as a gay woman, it has definitely been a different journey but a positive one.

During the five-year mark, Natasha and Freya worked on the business, not in it. After their tenth year, Coolhaus finally settled as a household brand. And as everyone knows, hard work pays off eventually. As of today, Natasha has done brand partnerships with MeUndies, Bustle, Lexus, and K-Swiss among others. She has been featured as well in media outlets like Cosmo, Bon Appetit, Vice, NPR, Food52, and TV shows like Good Morning America, The list goes on and on…

Without her amazing team, she says, Coolhaus would never be be what it is today. “I value the culture, energy and passion they bring to the company. The fact that they show up every day and dedicate so much of their time helping make this dream a reality is incredibly meaningful. Also thanks to them, I’ve been able to take a step back and focus on my family”.

Natasha and Freya hope that Coolhaus will be the household brand of millennials. “There is an incredible opportunity for us to do that as a culture of women leaders – so to lead and change by example.. that alone is a revolution. To be a powerhouse of women who are behind that brand, who created and are running its vision, that is our true aspiration” – Natasha Case.

Takeaways? Never settle for anything, not even one scoop!

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0 comments on “Plant-Based Companies: The Disruptors of Today’s Era”

Plant-Based Companies: The Disruptors of Today’s Era

From Del Taco, Qdoba Mexican Eats, Burger King and now McDonalds, vegetarian options are on the rise. With World Vegetarian Day on Tuesday, how could we not talk about it!? This phenomenon has become so widespread around the world, people are achieving this lifestyle without major difficulties. Everyone has probably come in contact with non-dairy milks and cheeses, coconut yoghurts, and imitations of beef, chicken, lamb, fish on any supermarket. The first trend came from people wanting to cut on animal products for their welfare. Some staggering numbers include:

  • 11 million people died in Hitler’s holocaust. The U.S. alone slaughters 112 million pigs per year – source
  • Every year, we slaughter 950 million birds for food consumption through electrical water baths or gas – source 
  • We kill between 1 and 2.8 trillion fish every year; 143-400x the amount of the entire human population – source
  • Domesticated cows have an average lifespan of 20 years; on dairy farms 5 years.

The trend eventually shifted from ethical reasons and religious convictions to concerns about personal health and most importantly, our planet. Some follow a vegetarian diet because they cannot afford to eat meat. But for whatever personal choice, you can’t deny “meatless Mondays” are not a thing.

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According to Dr. Springmann from Oxford University, “if the world went vegan, it could save 8 million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse emissions by 2/3 and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion”. Beyond Burger alone generated 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, required 46 percent less energy, and had far less impact on water and land use than the beef burger, said the New York Times. With an almost-full plant based diet, we will not only improve our environmental carbon footprint but also reduce the cost of food in developed and developing countries.

The Economist recently published that 25 percent of Americans (age range from 25-34 years old) identify themselves as vegan or vegetarian; New York City being the third most vegan-friendly city in America (HOORAY!). This number is exponentially growing, but unfortunately meat consumption is increasing worldwide especially in the Chinese market. It is yet unclear if whether plant-based proteins are replacing meat or if consumers are eating them in addition to meat. But in order to decrease meat consumers and the drastic climate changes occurring, plant-based companies have to continue making these products available, inexpensive, and tasty with the right texture. Otherwise, not many will be willing to make the change.

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A look at several datas have suggested, as you may all know, that improvement in health is in fact very true. Because vegetarians consume less saturated fat and cholesterol and receive more Vitamins C, E, fiber, folic acid, and potassium just to name a few, they have lower blood pressures, body mass index, and LDL ( bad cholesterol). A reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart attacks, type-2 diabetes, and cancer as well as longevity are also associated with a vegetarian/vegan diet. And for both mind and body, you are what you eat. What we consume mentally influences how the mind feels—”pleasant and happy or roiling with indigestion”. Whole-food diets heavy on the fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed protein can lift our moods and protect us from depression.

Now let’s be honest. This article will probably not stop you from consuming animal protein products, but hopefully it will lean you to make some little shifts in your diet. Adopting an overall healthier diet will lead to reduce symptoms of depression, trouble sleeping and chronic diseases. And I mean, if there are so many articles talking about vegetarian/vegan diets then some of it must be true!

0 comments on “Climate Change: It is real, and it is happening.”

Climate Change: It is real, and it is happening.

“The ocean is warmer, more acidic and less productive. Melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing sea level rise. Through the last century, global sea level has rose about 8 inches.” – the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states.

“Glaciers are projected to lose more than 80 per cent of their current ice mass by 2100” – UN News

“Our world is now about one degree Celsius hotter than in the pre-industrial period” – Weiss, 2019.

“Tropical deforestation is now responsible for 11 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions” – UNGA

“Carbon emissions from global energy use jumped two per cent in 2018, according to BP’s annual world energy study. The unusual number of hot and cold days last year resulted in increased use of cooling and heating systems powered by natural gas and coal. The energy sector accounts for two-thirds of all carbon emissions” – BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

These are just a few of the million scientific statements that mention how climate change is real and it’s happening. But unfortunately, millions of individuals believe that climate change is a hoax. Some say it’s fake science, others do not believe it because of misleading articles written by unknowledgeable individuals, and some live in areas of the world that have not yet experienced severe changes. According to a research conducted at Yale University in 2014, only 63 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening. This number is now lower after President Trump said he does not believe in it as well.

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So to give you an update, here is what you need to know on how our world is standing as of today:

  1. Our summers and winters keep getting warmer and warmer. 2018 was hotter than any year since 1850. The past four years have been the hottest years ever measured. “29 countries including France, Germany, Italy, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates hit 123 degrees Fahrenheit in June. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius—just 0.4 degrees Celsius above where we are now—then widespread environmental upheaval could result. Perhaps as soon as 2040, climate change could leave hundreds of millions of people with scarce food and water” (Meyer, 2019).
  2. Wildlife population has dropped by 60 percent in just 40 years, according to the biennial Living Planet Report published by the Zoological Society of London and the WWF. An estimated 5 percent of all species would be threatened with extinction by 2 degree Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels. Such damage to the ecosystem will increase poverty and hunger.
  3. The is more CO2 in our atmosphere than any time in human history. We have currently reached a CO2 concentration of 415.26 ppm. The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago. “Scientists have warned that carbon dioxide levels higher than 450ppm are likely to lock in catastrophic and irreversible changes in the climate” (Weiss, 2019).
  4. Ecological resources are depleting. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. July 29th, 2019 was the day we used up all the regenerative resources from 2019. That means that from July 30th onwards, we are consuming more resources that the planet can regenerate in a year.
  5. “Two thirds of extreme weather events in the last 20 years were influenced by humans”( Carbon Brief, 2019). Climate change has led to heavier precipitations, more frequent hurricanes, higher seas, and flood consequences.
  6. Shrinkage of tropical forest. 120,000 square km of tropical forest was lost in 2018. Deforestation contributes to global carbon emissions because trees naturally capture and lock away carbon as they grow. As for recent news, tens of thousands of fires have been recorded across the Amazon forest. Various factors that increase fires in tropical forests include climate change, agricultural production such as palm oil and meat eating, and deforestation for city enhancements.

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With all this tragedy, we are fortunate to have strong, global organizations such as the United Nations whom are committed to avoid the worst effects yet to come of global warming. With the United Nations Climate Action Summit taking place this week, we will hopefully see some future changes made by presidents, prime ministers and corporate executives. “77 countries had announced efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, several asset fund managers said they would aim to get to a net-zero portfolio of investments by the same year, and dozens of businesses said they would aim to abide by the Paris Agreement targets”, said António Guterres (The United Nations secretary general).

But even if countries and organizations claim they will make the necessary efforts to reduce the effects of climate change, past evidence have shown us they do not move fast enough to hit the desired goals. Because of this reason, more than ever before, individual actions should be taking the pressure! During this week, streets around the world and in the U.S. have been filled with students and activists as part of a Global Climate Strike. Our founder, Deepti, joined thousand of others at Battery Place for the sake of her kids’ future. “I marched because our earth is on fire and we have to take action. I marched because my kid’s future depends on it. I took my kids because I wanted to show them activism in action. As a mother of two young boys, I want them to understand that they have the power to make a difference by leading or showing up for causes that matter to them. Recycling and using less plastic is NOT enough. We need to show up and rally to be heard. Activism WORKS” – Deepti Sharma. 

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Practical, implementable change on an individual level is what it is needed in order to see actual change. More practical solutions for governments, businesses and communities should be more showcased and educated so that they can be implemented at local and national levels. “The world can reverse this biodiversity crisis but doing so will require proactive environmental policies, the sustainable production of food and other resources and a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions” , said Jeff Tollefson.

So, what little step are you going to start taking to save our planet? If wanting to brainstorm, this article is perfect for simple, individual solutions that do not require much!

 

 

 

Citations
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/nasa-noaa-shutdown-2018-warmest-climate-record/581221/
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/03/its-getting-warmer-but-americans-may-never-notice-climate-change/583570/
https://www.wired.co.uk/article/climate-change-facts-2019
https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/09/1046712
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01448-4
https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-the-world
https://www.carbonbrief.org/media-reaction-amazon-fires-and-climate-change
0 comments on “Break bread together, not alone.”

Break bread together, not alone.

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art” – François de La Rochefoucau.

We live in an era were we spend more time communicating with each other through our smart devices than through physical contact. Let’s not even talk about how most of us prefer to sit in our work desks alone with our soggy lunches from last night’s leftovers instead of laughing about it with colleagues who also brought unsatisfied meals. Sadly, Americans rarely eat together anymore. “In fact, the average American eats one in every five meals in their car, one in four Americans eats at least one fast food meal every single day, and the majority of American families report eating a single meal together less than five days a week” (Delistraty, 2014). It is definitely a pity to see so many Americans missing out on an opportunity as small as a 15 minute break to simply relax and have a meaningful conversation with someone. And a meaningful conversation is just one of the multiple other benefits eating around a communal table can bring to an individual.

Unfortunately, in America it seems snobbish or unprofessional if you take more than 20 minutes to have your lunch. There is also a cultural misconception that only bourgeois families can afford to have family dinners as both parents are able to be at home for that time. It is true many cannot afford to have both parents stay at home to cook and spend a desirable amount with their children. But that does not mean there doesn’t exist a way to make up for that time, or even find it. We, individuals, always find the time for things that we feel important. Sacrifices have to be made, but for good causes. So yes, socioeconomic situations make it more difficult, but that should be of no excuse to let a child grow by himself. One does not need to spend an hour dining with their beloved. It is okay to have small meal times since we all have things to do. All that matters is putting in the effort.

Getting accustomed to eating alone has quantifiable negative effects both physically and psychologically. Many research studies mention how children who do not eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week were 40 percent more likely to be overweight since they make poor food choices by choosing convenience (McDonald’s) over quality (a homemade meal). On the other hand, those who do have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance and report being closer with their parents (Columbia University). Dining with others cultivates our minds, allows us to pay attention to the whole eating experience, strengthens relationships and builds new ones. The communal table acts as a unifier, a place of community. It is the perfect excuse to catch up and talk about life.

At one point, people saw communal tables at restaurants as retrograde, awkward and a painful experience. Restaurants wouldn’t dare placing a communal table as part of their setting. But people now clamor for more interaction in their daily lives – especially when living in such an exhausting city like New York. And so when the restaurant industry started to experiment and take the “risk”, it was a total success. From Starbucks to Le Pain Quotidien to Momofuku to Son of a Gun in LA, the communal tables have found their ways in all types of restaurants around the country. It is a win-win for both the restaurant and the individual: the restaurant does more covers in the same space (more money) and the individual expands his/her network of relationships.

Human connection is necessary for human evolution, and the dinner table does it better than almost any place. Our company, FoodtoEat, has partnered with Product of Culture in order to push this statement further and break barriers. For one night, Product of Culture and Food To Eat will create a communal dinner table for 50 people to have a culinary experience curated by NYC based immigrant chefs. The mission is to unite people around the communal table and add diversity to the food community by championing small businesses that offer a unique and delicious selection of cuisine from across the globe. This experience is much more than just eating healthy and delicious food. It is about grasping the experience of building a connection with a stranger and also going through the culinary journey of three distinct immigrant chefs. It is why this article started with a phrase from a 17th-century French writer. It mentions the necessity of eating intelligently, which is not only eating food that nourishes our bodies and souls. It is also psychologically speaking of sharing a meal with a friend, a family member, a roommate, or even a stranger. 

 

Citations
https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-research/reports/importance-of-family-dinners-2012
https://labelleassiette.co.uk/blog/4-reasons-why-the-dining-table-will-always-be-important/
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/the-importance-of-eating-together/374256/
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/apr/14/health-benefits-eating-together/
https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a19532062/common-meal-prep-mistakes/
0 comments on “María Iglesias, founder of Corazon de Mexico”

María Iglesias, founder of Corazon de Mexico

No matter where you are in the country, you will definitely find a Mexican restaurant in any city. According from an analysis made in 2018 by food service firms like CDH Expert, there are over 60,000 Mexican restaurants in the U.S. But that should come as no surprise to any of us. Mexican cuisine has been well-admired throughout the world for its vibrant, authentic and delicious taste. The healthy ingredients, the wonderful aromas of fresh spices, the hot sauces that make you cry, and the deadly margaritas are the perfect combo to be a very popular cuisine.

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From fast-food chains to high-end Michelin star restaurants, one can find any type of Mexican food out there. But one thing is for sure: only those with great quality products and great service survive. And that is why Maria Iglesias along with her daughter and other women employees have been in this business since 2012. Born and raised in beautiful Puebla, Mexico, Chef María brings more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry to bear as owner and the brilliance of family Mexican food recipes passed down through generations of her family to your dining experience. She opened her very first restaurant and bakery called La Adelita in Woodside, NY where she served typical Mexican dishes and pastries like donuts, cemitas and hot beverages. The name is attributed to Adelita, a woman who joined the Mexican Revolution and fought for Mexico’s independence. She was a vital force in the revolutionary war efforts due to her participation in the battles against Mexican armies. Adelita came to be an archetype of a woman warrior in Mexico and a symbol to many of action and inspiration. Even today is her name being used to refer to any woman who struggles and fights for her rights – just like Maria, her daughter and her employees are doing.

Not many details were shared for personal reasons, but Maria and her daughter suffered domestic violence as well. It is because of their past experiences that they feel the urge to help other women who currently face similar situations. “We support women who have been mistreated and abused. We want them to find their inner independency just like we did. Our vision is to build a community where they are not afraid of being independent, rather afraid of being dependent to their partners. We want for these women to have a voice. We want them to know that we are here for them”, said Cynthia. She also mentioned how they want to hire more female personnel but have failed because either their husbands do not want them to work or do not want for them to have a place somewhere else than at home with the children.

“It has not been easy, not going to lie to you”, said Cynthia. La Adelita restaurant had to close their doors because the building they were established in was soon-to-be demolished. This is why the business has now moved to another location in Long Island called Corazon de Mexico. The change of name, as explained by Maria, was because Long Island’s inhabitants are completely different from those in Woodside. The community is built around a more American mentality, rather than a Hispanic one. If people in Long Island would walk by a restaurant called La Adelita, they would have never imagined it was a Mexican place. And it was not until a few months that Corazon de Mexico is now warming people’s hearts. Before that, Maria and Cynthia would receive threatening notes saying “You don’t belong here! Go away!” and other that are not being said.

La Adelita meant so much to these women not only because it was their business, but because it reminded them every day what they have accomplished with their own blood, sweat and tears. And now that exact same ideology is being translated into Corazon de Mexico. These women wake up every day at 4:00am to start unloading the fresh products delivered, start cooking the upcoming orders and then deliver the meals themselves. No matter the time the order was placed, the location of the delivery, or the volume of the meal, these women will get the job done.

These women are committed to exceptional quality and use only natural ingredients and spices that are imported straight from Mexico. The dishes created are fresh and uniquely flavorful, giving diners an opportunity to relish an authentic Mexican dining experience with the best Mexican food in Long Island. The charming Corazon de Mexico is the realization of these women’s determination and passion for not just the culinary arts, but also for other women to know they do not have to be afraid to pursue something of their own. Just like female soldier Adelita did for her beloved Mexico.

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0 comments on “Mindful Meditation at Work: A Company’s Road to Success”

Mindful Meditation at Work: A Company’s Road to Success

Sadly, statistics show us that one in five New Yorkers have a mental health disorder, and over 700,000 New Yorkers suffer from symptoms of depression (Department of Health). Psychiatrists say “people experience panic attacks while riding the subway here in New York but have no problem riding the metro in Paris”. But these numbers should be of no surprise to anyone. New York is mostly enclosed spaces, crowded places, tall buildings and people with a frenetic pace.  New York basically screams anxiety everywhere you go – except for Central Park.

As more and more New Yorkers experience mental illnesses, many around them have created a stigma against them. Pervasive stereotypes have emerged by defining these people as dangerous, emotionally unstable, and unpredictable. This stigma has encouraged those with mental illnesses to avoid treatment for fear of being associated as someone who is not well. And this stigma continues to exists because mental health research institutions do not receive the same funding levels as other systems, individuals with mental illnesses do not share their personal stories, and the education available regarding symptoms and treatments of a mental illness is very low. “It has come to the point we need to declare war on mental illness and place a priority on funding innovative neurobiological research for better prevention, diagnosis, early intervention and treatment” (Borenstein, 2016).

But as technology progresses, more in-depth advances have been seen in this field. Now more than ever we are seeing a community slowly building up that wants to create a robust environment that encourages the path of recovery without fear of labels or diminished opportunities. Companies are aware that “mental health conditions cost employers more than $100 billion and 217 million lost workdays each year” (NAMI). And it is no secret that addressing this issue in the workplace and investing in mental health care will increase employee’s productivity, confidence, and overall retention.

The ultimate problem many us have is that we can’t seem to fit the time in our crazy schedules to work in our mental health. Many of us are in the office until late at night, and the last thing we want to do when getting home (after an intense subway ride) is to think how we can work on ourselves. Netflix and chill just seems like a better idea. But because of that, the office should be the place where the team gathers and has a moment to ultimately detach from our smart devices and our surroundings. This is why FoodtoEat has teamed up with MNDFL, New York’s premier meditation studio, for their new “Launch & Sit” program.

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With “Launch & Sit”, certified teachers bring meditation straight to your office, leaving behind the worry about squeezing this personal time into your busy week. MNDFL comes to you with a 30-minute guided meditation session and then finishes with a delicious, healthy meal catered by FoodtoEat. As a company that creates more and better opportunities for women, immigrants and minority groups, it is important for us to partner with companies that align with our values and help create a healthier workplace. Given the chaotic city we live in, it is necessary to have spaces that allow people to sit quietly and simply reset and reflect. A space to breathe is necessary from time to time.

 

 

Citations:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-and-behavior/201608/increase-funding-mental-illness-now
https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/stigma-as-a-barrier-to-mental-health-care.html
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/humans-of-new-york-anxiety_n_56c4c6cbe4b08ffac1274edd
https://www.mndflmeditation.com/work.html
0 comments on “Angela “Nena” Sierra, co-founder of Palenque Colombian Food”

Angela “Nena” Sierra, co-founder of Palenque Colombian Food

Crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside is exactly how a corn patty “arepa” looks like. To give you a better picture, imagine a Mexican corn tortilla but thicker and of course, tastier. Arepas were originated a hundred years ago, contributing to the diet of various indigenous tribes across Venezuela and Colombia. They have now become a dish so popular that any socio-economic group eats them. And just like any sandwich, fillings vary and there are no rules. Colombian entrepreneurs Angela “Nena” Sierra and Viviana Lewis took this statement quite literal and changed the arepa game since day one!

Viviana had been in the food industry way before Angela decided to join her. Angela was working as a film producer in Bogota, Colombia where she flew back and forth for clients between Bogota and NYC. Wanting to take the next step, Angela moved to NYC in 2000 to begin a degree in film production. She involved herself in audiovisual production companies and in local theater. But after her experience in NYC, Angela decided to move back to Colombia and start working in television. Everything was going according to plans until she was badly injured. An elevator had not received maintenance in years and when Angela stepped inside, she slipped through a hole five floors down. “It was a miracle I was alive. It is a blessing I am able to walk right now”.

After the surgery in Colombia, Angela flew to NYC for a second medical procedure in her leg as it was poorly performed. Fast forward to several months later, Viviana came to Angela while she was recovering and mentioned she needed help selling arepas in a fair at Greenpoint. Not surprisingly, the arepas were a huge success! Angela fell in love with the quality of the arepas and saw a huge market potential for them. As she knew the film industry was not something she wanted to continue doing, both Angela and Viviana decided to buy their first food truck in September 2011 and named it Palenque Homemade Colombian Food.

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Besides a new revenue stream, the food truck gave Angela a mental recovery. Being busy all day by having to cook, clean, and move the truck from one corner to the other, Angela did not have the time to think about the pain she was experiencing in her leg. Much less in 2012 were people stepped out of Union Square Q Station for the food truck paradise to fill those hungry stomachs – it was just the perfect street food scenery. Even Daily News, New York Times and TeleMundo shared Palenque’s success in their platforms for this powerful transformation of the traditional Arepa to one with same taste, but greater nutritional value.

Just like pasta, Arepa is sometimes feared because it is a simple carb – mostly starch with little protein/fiber. But the great thing of an arepa is that it adapts to anyone’s needs – precisely Palenque’s mission. Palenque will not sell you the typical Colombian arepa made from just corn flour. These two female entrepreneurs have added a twist of healthy grains such a quinoa, hemp seeds, and flax seeds to the flour for more protein and more crunch! Now you don’t have to think twice before ordering one (or two).

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This step out of the comfort zone by looking into a healthier version of an arepa led them into the road to success. Palenque has expanded from a food truck to now three brick-and-mortars (Brooklyn, Rockaway Beach and RIIS Park Beach), events such as NYC Half Marathon and catering platforms like FoodtoEat. The business is also represented at festivals such as Smorgasburg every Saturday and Sunday. In fact, right after hurricane Sandy the NYC Mayor office asked Palenque to provide arepas to those people who had suffered the catastrophe at Rockaway.

So as you can see, these two female founders have taught us several lessons worth mentioning. First, you can build a business that is different from any careers or degrees pursued before. Second, you do not have to come up with a brand new product/service in order to be successful. You just need to find the faults of an existing one and fix them. Third, to make a difference in the world you need to dream big and work your butt off. And last but not least, Palenque has become a staple in NYC because it is run by two immigrant women. These women’s backgrounds, experiences and way of thinking has made it possible for us New Yorkers to get a taste of a dish served hundreds of miles away.

So what are you waiting for? Cater for you and your team and Contact us!

 

0 comments on “FoodtoEat’s One of a Kind Hispanic Vendors!”

FoodtoEat’s One of a Kind Hispanic Vendors!

From Colombia to Venezuela, Argentina to Peru,  Mexico to Cuba – we can all agree the Hispanic community has made its mark in Manhattan. Especially when it comes to food, Hispanic proud themselves for what they serve at each of their restaurants. Each compares itself with its neighbor with the flavors once created by their mamás and abuelitas. So whether you are looking for small bites like empanadas and sweet plantains or a bigger plate that makes you feel like home, FoodtoEat has you covered. !Comamos!

  • Havana Central – Cuban Restaurant

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We all wish we could be laying down in a beautiful, white-sand beach in the outskirts of Cuba eating the most fresh grilled fish, or having lunch in a historic site in Old Havana. But reality is reality! And we can’t give you the white-sand beach but we can certainly deliver that fresh grilled fish you are craving! One of our Cuban vendors, Havana Central, offers a variety of meals that will leave you scrapping your plates. Just to give you a sneak-peak, our customers’ favorites are the Herb Roasted chicken with cilantro rice and plantain as well as their flavorful Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Pepper. Chao pescao!

  • Nuchas – Argentinian Restaurant

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Empanadas, empanadas, and more empanadas. YUM! Beef, chicken, spinach and cheese, italian sausage, shiitake curry, slow braised short rib, you name it! At Nuchas, they are proud to be transforming the iconic empanada into a gourmet meal. Delicious and convenient, in the palm of your hand.

  • Palenque Homemade Colombian Food – Colombian Restaurant

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No Colombian meal is complete without carbohydrates. A sort of cross between a tortilla and a pancake is what Colombian know as Amasijos. So everything from a crispy arepa, to a sweet corn cake is considered that. And this Colombian vendor, Palenque, is dedicated to provide delicious gourmet colombian fusions. Step out of your comfort zone and order one of their signature dishes!

  • Areppas – Venezuelan Restaurant

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Areppas, a Venezuelan restaurant here in Manhattan, is considered to be the “Chipotle for arepas”. If you didn’t know, an arepa is made from ground maize corn. As healthy as it can get, an arepa is grilled and then opened to be filled with delicious ingredients such as ham and cheese, sweet plantain and shredded beef, or chicken and avocado. Arepas are simply for everyone – vegans, vegetarians, meat eaters, health freaks and more. Don’t believe us? Order them now!

  • Baby Brasa – Peruvian Restaurant

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Baby Brasa serves contemporary Peruvian cuisine and fusion dishes. It is a vibrant restaurant filled with colors, great food, outstanding cocktails and a music that will make you dance. As to our favorite catering dishes, el Lomo Saltado (marinated strips of sirloin steak with tomatoes, onions, and a side of French fries and rice) is a must try or if looking something on the lighter side you can never go wrong with the Fish Ceviche.

  • Corazón De Mexico – Mexican Restaurant

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¡Órale! Finally Mexican cuisine! This food has been well-admired throughout the world for its vibrant, authentic and delicious taste. The healthy ingredients, the wonderful aromas of fresh spices, the hot sauces that make you cry, and the deadly margaritas are the perfect combo to be a very popular cuisine. Now stop reading and start eating some tacos Güey!

0 comments on “Christine Chebli, Co-Founder of Toum”

Christine Chebli, Co-Founder of Toum

Do you know what exactly Lebanese food is? Would you be able to distinguish a Greek Gyro with a Lebanese Shawarma? I certainly could not and know most people couldn’t either. There is ignorance on the different types of foods each Middle Eastern country has, putting them all under the same umbrella. But people like Christine, co-founder of Lebanese restaurant Toum, is trying to change that. “We are still teaching New Yorkers, who know all about food, really what Lebanese food is. They come and they say: Oh, I’ll have a gyro and what we serve is nothing similar to a gyro. So educating a customer is always challenging “.

But in order to educate consumers about Lebanese food, it needs to be served! Christine and her husband Rodrigue noticed there weren’t many Lebanese restaurants that cook good, authentic Lebanese food and decided to take a chance on what they’ve been cooking for many years. Rodrigue had been in the food industry since he could walk, and always dreamt about opening a Lebanese restaurant in NY. And Christine, on the other hand, had a financial background. She worked as an investment banker for eleven years before deciding to fully commit to the food industry. And after many thoughts given, Christine and Rodrigue opened the first Lebanese food truck in NYC in July 2012!

But let’s rewind a few years before that opening. Prior to their truck, Christine and Rodrigue launched a food booth in a friend’s open space in a festival in Little Eataly. They wanted to test the waters first, see if people would come and buy some of their food. At one point, Rodrigue decided to serve himself lunch and started creating a Lebanese style burger – a fine chopped beef with spices, onions and parsley. “He spread it on bread and grilled it, and while he was grilling it someone came up and said: “Ooh, what is that!? I want whatever he is preparing!” And it was love at first bite. Then one person after the other were asking for this burger that wasn’t even part of our menu!”.  After seeing many customers line up, it was official that a food truck was happening.

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Food trucks are part of the American landscape, with coffee carts and hot dog stands representing the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit. Food trucks are a great way to enter and test a market, without blowing a huge amount of capital. But while this concept may seem appealing to many people, the venture comes with a list of challenges specifically in the NYC area. Apparently, government officials in NY make it so much harder for food trucks to strive than in any other states like Florida, Denver and Atlanta. “The city is against you. You’re not allowed to park anywhere, you’ll get a ticket for parking every time, you’re not allowed to vend, and you’re not allowed to serve from a metered spot where all spots in Manhattan are metered. And say you paid the meter because you are commercial vehicle and served lunch. You now get two tickets: one for parking on a meter and one for vending. It is really hard”, says Christine. For food truck owners, this is part of their day-to-day. It is seen as their daily rent. Drivers even get their parking spots at 3:00am just to vend lunch from 11:00am to 3:00pm. And sometimes after staying up those long hours cops can come at noon, middle of the lunch rush hour, and tell you to leave. “If you are shut down at that time, you’re not finding a spot anywhere else in the city. You have traffic, you have food waste, you have staff that needs to get paid anyways and you just lost an entire day!”. It is frustrating given that it is not about the money, but the principle. Truck owners are doing nothing wrong, just selling food to hungry customers. They are not parking in front of a restaurant, or taking business from someone else. So if everyone is happy, why punish them? We rely on food trucks to nourish us at music festivals, cater our graduations and engagement parties and most importantly, broaden our lunch horizons. These truck owners continue to expose an “unaware group of eaters to new culinary opportunities”.

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Fast-forward to 2012 – a buzz kicked in when people would take lunch breaks and immediately follow the line of hungry customers waiting for their flavorful Shawarma. The quality and consistency of Toum is what kept customers happy and made them come back. The food, as Christine mentioned, was served as if it was for their kids. “If my kids wouldn’t eat it, then I will not serve it. We make sure the customer gets the same quality every time he/she orders from us. We never use lower quality product, even if it affects our margins. We are more concerned with the quality to make sure the taste is great with every order. The margins hurt, but the food truck must keep going”.

People started asking about corporate catering, weddings, events, birthday parties and more. “Lebanese food is not something you can find in every corner like Italian or Mexican food. After people coming to us and tasting our food, they asked about catering and that is when we started engaging with catering platforms like FoodtoEat. Never reducing its quality, Toum was taken to the next level. Ask anyone who runs a food truck what their ultimate goal is and most will tell you that it’s their dream to one day turn the truck into a full-fledged, brick-and-mortar restaurant. And so Christine quit the corporate America job to nurture “this baby full-time”. Having a food enthusiast and a business professional gave a lot of potential for Toum to follow the right direction to be a successful restaurant. It was the perfect combination to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The food side is all handled by Rodrigue and the business operations, development, marketing, social media and other non-food related decisions is Christine.

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They gave themselves a two year timeline to decide if they would continue working for Toum or if it was something they wanted to keep as a side job and go back into the corporate world. Fortunately, Toum Restaurant has been growing at a steady rate and continues to do so. As of now, training and having people visualize Toum as a restaurant instead of a food truck is the biggest challenge for both Christine and Rodrigue. “I would like for people to know that we’ve transitioned from a truck to a restaurant. But we are hoping that our social media push and marketing campaign is going to help do that. But also training is hard because people are set in their own ways and you can’t blame them. So allowing people to do things in their own technique but tweak to work for us is certainly our goal”.

It is really amazing to have a dream and see it come to life in your own hands. Your own blood, sweat and tears. “It was never my passion to be in the food industry; it was mostly Rodrigue. And I believed so much in his dream that I was sure it was going to turn out positively. When he creates food, he does it with such passion and so beautiful that everyone wants to eat. It just had to work”. Not having many Lebanese restaurants in NYC, it is a motivation for this power couple to continue showcasing their food that comes from their own hands, their own recipes. “Seeing the amazing feedback and the potential for the bigger picture is all the motivation we need. For me, I feel like we made it. Now, it’s only about consistency and further growth”.

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Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!