FoodtoEat Academy Awards Presents: Local Food Super Heroines

By Debra Liu

Three things of note: (1) The 86th Academy Awards are happening tomorrow night! (2) The theme of the Oscars this year is super heroes, and (3) March is Women’s History Month. Therefore, at FoodtoEat, in only makes sense that we are celebrating our local Super Food Heroines, amazing women who are using food to make the world a better, brighter place: Amy Chasan of Sweet Generation, Robyn Hillman-Harrigan of Rockaway Rescue Alliance- Shore Soup Project, Jessamyn Rodriguez of Hot Bread Kitchen and Deepti Sharma Kapur of FoodtoEat. We had the chance to ask them a few questions and get their Oscar picks too!

Amy Chasan, founder of Sweet Generation 

Amy Chasan, founder of Sweet Generation
Amy Chasan, founder of Sweet Generation

Debra Liu: Who is your personal hero and why?

Amy Chasan: My heroes are my family – they are who inspire, push, support and encourage me. When I think of heroes, those are the qualities that come to mind. And while there are so many influential, powerful, intelligent leaders in this world, when I boil it down to who it is that make me be the best person I can be – it’s my family.

DL: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

AC: Easy! The Goddess Athena’s superpowers!  She is the goddess of culture, the Arts, courage, wisdom and justice – I would magically cultivate and support the creative energy of our youth to ensure that they have every opportunity to become the brilliant creators they were meant to be.

DL: How are you using food to change and better the world?

AC: Arts Education is a proven powerful force in raising academic achievement, preventing youth violence, school retention, developing effective leaders, and so much more. Yet the Arts are the first thing to come under the knife in economic hardship. Arts Education is grossly underfunded and funding continues to decline. It’s so crazy. So I created Sweet Generation to help Arts organizations, schools and community members increase the funding potential of their community-based fundraising – we’re a 21st century neighborhood bakesale, on steroids!

DL: What movie this year do you want to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards?

AC: While there are some amazing films up for the award this year, I would put my vote in for “12 Years A Slave” – I am profoundly moved by  the way it bears witness to the painful and unimaginable story of this part of our history – a story that is so often overlooked, downplayed, and even denied. There is no better way to deeply move and educate people than through the Arts!

DL: Favorite movie of all time?

AC: Mary & Max, without a doubt. This 2009 Australian claymation drama/black-comedy by Adam Elliot is an incredible exploration of human relationships, struggles, love and fear. It really gets to the heart of the human experience in all its wonder and glory. The story is so moving (based on a true story), and the use of claymation is such an effective medium, that I find this film to be unparalleled and absolutely awe-inspiring. It is particularly poignant at this time in that Philip Seymour Hoffman was the voice of the very sad and struggling Max.

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan, Executive Director at Rockaway Rescue Alliance- Shore Soup Project

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan (left), Executive Director at Rockaway Rescue Alliance- Shore Soup Project
Robyn Hillman-Harrigan (left), Executive Director at Rockaway Rescue Alliance- Shore Soup Project
Debra Liu: Who is your personal hero and why?

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan: My personal hero is my Grandmother, because she is 103 and she started writing poetry a couple of years ago and has already been published. I love her, and appreciate the reminder that it’s never too late to do what you love.

DL: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

RHH: If I could fly I would be really excited about it. I could get everywhere really quickly, no more long commutes and I would have the best view whenever I needed a break from the bustle of our city.

DL: How are you using food to change and better the world?

RHH: I believe that healthy community can be built around the action of sharing healthy food. Every week at Shore Soup we take donated organic produce and turn it into delicious chef prepared soups and salads. We then deliver these meals for free to people in the Rockaway community who are food insecure. After Hurricane Sandy we ran a relief kitchen and fed over 50,000 free meals and this past summer we operated a pay-as-you-can food truck. We are currently raising funds towards the establishment of a permanent pay-as-you-can restaurant in New York City, because we’ve seen the amazing possibilities that emerge when people share food and other resources with each other.

DL: What movie this year do you want to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards?

RHH: Her. I think that all of the contenders are pretty great, but I like what Her has to say about the nature of love, friendship, where we’re at as a society and where things might be headed in the future.

DL: Favorite movie of all time?

RHH: I’m a sucker for cult classics, but I’ve also seen a few indies over the years that have been great and I remember really loving 12 Monkeys. So it’s between that film, Heathers and Heaven.

Jessamyn Rodriques, Founder & CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen
Jessamyn Rodriguez, Founder & CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen
Jessamyn Rodriguez, Founder & CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen

Debra Liu: Who is your personal hero and why?

Jessamyn Rodriguez: My Grandmother, Ruth “Bubie” Perlmutter. She is a classy lady who, after being widowed in her 30’s, went to work outside the home for the first time. She built a career as an insurance broker and worked into her 70’s. When I was young, I used to love watching her get dressed up for work in the morning. She embraced professionalism in a way that is not typical of women of her generation. She took much pride in cultivating a professional persona which I really admire.

DL: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

JR: It isn’t a superpower in the traditional sense, but with two young children at home and our fast-paced and quickly growing social enterprise, I dream of being able thrive on an hour of sleep per night. With 23 hours in the day, just imagine how much you could get done!

DL: How are you using food to change and better the world?

JR: Hot Bread Kitchen is helping minority and immigrant women take their share of the billion dollar food industry. It is affirmative action for the specialty food business!

DL: What movie this year do you want to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards?

JR: This is embarrassing to admit, but I just had a baby and have only made it out to see one of the nominees, Gravity. It doesn’t get my vote this year.

DL: Favorite movie of all time?

JR: I adore In the Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar-wai. Great costumes, beautiful soundtrack, and, of course, enticing food.

Deepti Sharma Kapur, Founder & CEO of FoodtoEat
Deepti Sharma Kapur, Founder & CEO of FoodtoEat
Deepti Sharma Kapur, Founder & CEO of FoodtoEat

Debra Liu: Who is your personal hero and why?

Deepti Sharma Kapur: My hero is my mom. I know it sounds cliché, but she’s dealt with so much in her own life that it’s hard not to see her as an inspiration. From raising two kids after moving to a brand new country and way of life, to just starting one business after another, some of which were in completely different fields, to still being there for family and friends in times of celebration or consolation. She is easily my hero and role model.

DL: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

DSK: Time travel! I would definitely take the chance to go back and meet my ancestors in India, and also a few former world leaders that I look up to.

DL: How are you using food to change and better the world?

DSK: At FoodtoEat, I’m showing food-business owners how they can use technology to grow their businesses – and vice versa, helping consumers find more restaurants, food trucks and caterers than ever before!

DL: What movie this year do you want to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards?

DSL: Can’t say – I’ve only seen American Hustle! I’m slacking in this department!

DL: Favorite movie of all time?

DSK: So hard to pick one but I can pick a few across different genres: Star Wars, The Godfather and (of course) Mulan!

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For all of March, in honor of Women’s History Month, we’ll be profiling talented women entrepreneurs in the food space who are creating history as we speak. If you know someone who you think is a food heroine, please contact debra@foodtoeat.com – we’d love to meet her and share her story with the community!
DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

Sweet Generation: Funding Arts Education, One Cupcake at a Time

Sweet Generation logo

By Debra Liu

Remember baking cookies for school bake-sales to raise money for your school’s rendition of Wizard of Oz, with you playing the coveted role of Dorothy? Well, step it up a few awesome notches and I present to you Sweet Generation, an online custom bakery that not only creates delicious cupcakes and cookies, but is dedicated to generating funds to increase Arts education for children. With the motto “helping with every helping”, Sweet Generation is transforming the way we think about fundraising, one cupcake at a time.

Strawberry Malted Milkshake Cupcakes
Strawberry Malted Milkshake Cupcakes

Founder Amy Chasan grew up baking; it was one of her favorite pastimes spent with her mother. According to Amy, “Our tradition was, as soon as there was a thunderstorm, we would go and bake banana bread, get our little folding chairs and sit on the front porch and watch the rainstorm.” Amy’s studies and professional experiences have all been focused around Arts education, particularly on the impact of funding and the funding challenges that Arts programs face. Amy combined her experience in arts education with her love of baking to develop a business that would “help art education programs fulfill their fundraising goals.”

A lot of the interesting flavor combinations, such as Honey Cornbread, come from customers who want to create something unique and different. Sweet Generations’ customized cupcakes with images are one of the customers’ favorites. “Because everything we do is custom, we work with our customers to make things that meet their needs,” Amy says. Voted “Best Cupcake in NYC” by the Village Voice in 2013, the most popular flavors are Red Velvet, Strawberry Malted Milkshake, Coconut Lime, and French Lavender Lemon. Amy’s favorite cupcake flavor currently is the Eternal Chocolate Flame, a chocolate cayenne pepper cupcake. “I love spice so I’ve started to experiment a lot with cayenne both in our cookies and cupcakes,” says Amy.

Warby Parker branded cupcakes
Warby Parker branded cupcakes

Sweet Generation’s vision is to remove barriers between children and art. In addition to selling cupcakes at events and working closely with performing arts programs such as viBe Theater Experience, Sweet Generation is working on integrating more of their social mission into the business by coordinating small arts competitions for children. “We’ve started running little competitions for people to submit their children’s artwork and then featuring them on our cupcakes… this a really simple, really fun way to do an art project with your kid that doesn’t take a lot and you get a really fun result out of it.”

Amy hopes to support Arts education as much as possible and so her goal for Sweet Generation is to be the go-to alternative funding source for Arts programs. “This is an attempt at really ramping up the power of that community style bake-sale to a whole different level,” Amy says.

Red Velvet Cupcake
Red Velvet Cupcake

FoodtoEat is incredibly excited to be working closely with Amy and Sweet Generation to accomplish her mission! If you’re interested in having Sweet Generation cater your next event, just contact us at info@foodtoeat.com and we can make that happen.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com