On a sunny Saturday morning in North East Minneapolis, farmers, food producers and crafters have gathered to sell their wares. Nestled among stands filled with brightly colored vegetables, piles of bread and pastries, honey, and homemade soaps is Alissa Barthel, selling kale chips. She greets shoppers with enthusiasm and although they may no idea what a kale chip is, she kindly offers everyone a sample. She chats with potential customers, explaining how she turns a not so popular leafy green vegetable into a crispy, healthy raw foods snack.
The dehydrated kale chips are dressed with a raw nut “cheese” and come in mild, medium, or very spicy. Though raw food snacks may not be typical fare for Minnesotans, at the market a variety of people try and buy the chips and come back the next week for more.
Alissa’s interest in raw food began after a severe toxic exposure devastated her immune system. This lead to serious food sensitivities which in turn pushed her to explore eating and cooking raw foods. Although Alissa was more focused on healing her own body by cooking and eating this way, a serendipitous opportunity led her to study raw foods cooking at Matthew Kenney Academy.
After suffering further physical setbacks which required continued healing, Alissa began experimenting with kale chips and raw cheeses. “I started making the kale chips out of boredom. And to my surprise, people were really into them. So I kept making them. Until winter, when kale went out of season. At that point, I started making these vegan nut milk cheeses.”
Alissa hadn’t intended to become a raw foods chef. She is slowly building a business around her interests and abilities. She is limited by what she can do physically but Punk Rawk Labs, Alissa’s company, blog, and raw foods cooking video series, has become a way for her to share her story and reach out to others. She explains, “I have a different framework to work with. The fundamental is what can I do and what can I build around that? I haven’t figured out all the answers yet. It’s kind of a process.” She continues to explore her own path and interests in raw foods by writing about her journey, sharing useful information in her videos, and selling a product to market goers who might not have a chance to try it elsewhere.
Punk Rawk Labs
All photos courtesy of Punk Rawk Labs and Alissa Barthel