Amy Pickle and Hannah Phillips are bringing their love of organic raw foods to Memphians with their new food delivery service, Raw Girls Memphis. A raw diet is plant-based. It differs from a vegetarian or vegan diet in that nothing is heated over 118 degrees. This enables the foods to retain their live enzymes. Hence, raw food is often described as live food.
Phillips has been eating raw for about five years, and Pickle, a vegetarian since age 17, went raw about six months ago. Pickle says she has felt a major energy shift after only eating raw foods. She's also lost 23 pounds and says she has healthy hair and skin for the first time.
"We're 95 percent raw but not rigid," Phillips explains. It can be difficult to maintain a raw diet in Memphis, especially when dining out. "When it is a struggle to find something to eat, we order salad," Pickle says.
They say a raw diet is not about deprivation, but it can be isolating. Phillips admits that she was never good at making raw food taste great but was willing to eat foods for their health benefits rather than taste. Pickle's culinary skills changed all of that.
Pickle attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. While there she worked two to three days a week in the Mercer Kitchen with master chef Jean George, who studied in Thailand. She did her externship at the Zuni Café in San Francisco under chef Judy Rodgers, who got her start at Chez Panisse.
Working from scratch and using seasonal foods and local ingredients became second nature to Pickle. After moving back to Memphis in 2008, she worked in restaurants but had a hard time finding her way. "There were no farmers markets, and everyone wanted to cut corners. I couldn't do it," she says. By 2009, she was doing computer work.
Making raw food taste great is a challenge that has reinvigorated Pickle. "I try to think about what would make hot food taste good and go from there," she says. Her menu planning starts at a farmers market on Saturday. In addition to the produce she orders in bulk from Downing Hollow and Tubby Creek farms, she looks for inspiration. "I taste things and get excited," she says.
Once they have their ingredients, the Raw Girls load up their backpacks with cookbooks and head to Otherlands to study recipes. On Sunday, they confirm orders, and preparation starts at 4 a.m. Monday morning.
Some of Pickle's most popular items are bello burgers (made with almonds, portabello mushrooms, yellow bell peppers, carrots, and herbs); Thai croquettes (made with shiitake mushrooms and red and yellow peppers) served with red curry sauce; pizza (made with walnut, flaxseed meal, sun dried tomato pizza dough); and wilted kale salad.
Pickle marinates mushrooms with agave and shogu and massages greens with sea salt. "The food processor is my BFF. Walnuts and almonds are great for a base. Portabellos, red and yellow bell peppers, basil, cilantro, and garlic are must-have ingredients," she says.
A dehydrator binds the burgers and croquettes together and make breads and pizza crusts. This can be labor intensive, and the breads can take up to 48 hours to dehydrate, but it is a labor of love. "People like raw food to look like the other foods they are used to eating," Pickle explains.
Phillips' specialty is dessert. Pickle describes her as "a real alchemist." She has a raw foods certification from David Wolfe, the "rock star" of the superfoods and longevity world and author of many best selling books, including Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future. She makes rich and satisfying sweets without refined sugar or syrup. Some of her most popular desserts include raw pumpkin pie, chocolate ganache, and deep chocolate (pure cacao) pudding (made with avocado and banana as the base) topped with goji berries and cacao nibs.
The raw-foods home-delivery service started in June, almost by accident. A friend offered to pay Pickle and Phillips for a daily meal delivery after tasting food they made for each other. The friend told other friends and overnight the Raw Girls had 10 clients.
In August, they started a Facebook page and began taking weekly orders. They quickly built a base of about 60 customers who order every week or every other week, for an average of 30 orders per week.
Pickle, who also runs an IT business called Pickle IT, started declining work, and Phillips, who operated Give Yoga for five years, found out the building she was renting was being sold. "It was like the universe said, 'This is what you should be doing,'" Phillips says. "Amy and I are together 24/7 now. We're partners in life and partners in work."
As their business grows, they are looking for ways to improve their services. They originally offered a daily delivery of dinner Monday to Friday for $120 per week. Now they are switching to a weekly box of food delivered on Monday with five meals and ingredients for five superfood smoothies for $120 per week.
Vacuum packing foods offered them more flexibility in their menus. They hope to serve not only Memphis and the surrounding area but the entire United States. "The local market comes first, but we'd love to be huge. We are in radical times foodwise," Pickle says.
The Raw Girls recently spent a week in Portland, Oregon, to research the raw-food scene there and have now leased a space to expand their kitchen.
"This work has been transformative," Pickle says. "Our food is guilt-free, and it really gives back to you."
"We have big dreams," Phillips says.
firstname.lastname@example.org — Raw Girls Memphis: 496-0755