No Eggs? No Milk? No Problem

Comments (1) Posted By Joe on September 17, 2009 in Entrepreneur Directory

Harold Mitchell, Jr. bakes vegan cookies, cakes and pies

Harold Mitchell, Jr.’s vegan baking business grew out of necessity.

The Newark-based chef started to bake a cake one night only to realize he had no milk or eggs in his apartment. Mitchell decided to improvise, creating a new recipe as well as new business idea along the way.

Since then, Mitchell has expanded his repertoire of vegan treats to include layer cakes, pies, and peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip cookies.

Converting traditional desserts into vegan delicacies is no easy task. Once Mitchell develops a recipe, he tries it out five or six times before he is satisfied. “It’s a little more work, but it’s worth it in the end,” he says. Instead of common staples like eggs and butter, he uses ingredients like dry egg replacer, coconut oil and vegetable shortening in his recipes.

Mitchell was trained as a chef at the Elijah’s Promise Culinary Arts program in New Brunswick and at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. Throughout his studies, he wanted to distinguish himself from his classmates. He describes his cooking style as an “act of culinary rebellion.”

And this chef is a rebel with a cause. Mitchell suffers from several chronic diseases, and he hopes that by going into business, he can serve as an inspiration: “I want others to know that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.”

Just her Cup of Tea

Comments (1) Posted By Joe on September 17, 2009 in Entrepreneur Directory

Sharon Levy caters tea parties and sells a variety of exotic blends.

For as long as she can remember, Sharon Levy has started each day with a cup of tea. The drink was a staple during her childhood in Jamaica, and her family brought their love of tea with them when they came to the United States. Now, she has turned her passion into a business, called Taking Tea in Style.

Levy caters tea parties, offers etiquette training for children and sells 18 flavors of gourmet tea on her website.

“I love entertaining and enjoy the tea experience,” Levy says, “and people enjoy my teas.”

Levy’s full-service tea catering allows hosts to sit back and relax. She brings teas, teacups, flatware, finger sandwiches, pastries and music. She and her staff wait on guests during the party and clean up afterward. Customers who have hired Levy to cater their parties speak of her imagination and creativity in creating a relaxing experience for guests.

Relaxation is key to unlocking the healing power of tea. Drinking it regularly, she says, can relieve stress and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Tea parties can also be a great way to teach etiquette. Levy offers training sessions for children in which she imparts skills like table manners and polite conversation. She offers this training at a discount to non-profit organizations, schools and churches.

Though she specializes in tea parties and etiquette training, Levy also offers a variety of exotic blends. With flavors like Blue Mango Green, Ginger Bounce and South African Honeybush Vanilla, she caters to the adventurous.

Levy’s teas can be purchased on her website as well as at The Little Chef in Princeton and the Main Street Bakery in Kingston, N.J. She caters tea parties in New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City.

A Passion for Food

Comments (2) Posted By Joe on September 8, 2009 in Entrepreneur Directory

Pearl Thompson's business, The Seasonal Fork, specializes in organic meals.

With a grandmother from Georgia and a grandfather from India, Pearl Thompson was exposed early to a variety of culinary styles.

Thompson, who runs The Seasonal Fork, is a personal chef who offers her customers a range of meals that come from organic and locally grown foods. Her repertoire includes Indian, Thai and Chinese foods, and her customers range from professionals short on time to athletes in training.

Thompson grew up in a family of food entrepreneurs. Her mother ran a pizzeria in Newark, where she grew up, and many of her relatives owned food carts in the city. It wasn’t until later, though, that she explored becoming a chef.

In the 1980s, Thompson took a job as a bus driver to support her family. Driving up and down the East Coast for 10 years, she sampled cuisines of the various regions along her route. This re-kindled her interest in cooking, inspiring her to seek out formal culinary training.

She took classes at the New York Restaurant School and at the Culinary Institute of America, eventually teaching the trade to other budding chefs.

Around this time, Lisanne Finston, head of the Elijah’s Promise Community Kitchen, was looking to branch out and found a culinary school for the organization’s clientele. She approached Thompson to spearhead the effort, and the result was the successful Promise Jobs Culinary School in New Brunswick.

Thompson developed a reputation in the area as an excellent chef, and one who would cater to people with special dietary needs. About seven years ago, a friend of Thompson’s was planning a conference in Highland Park and knew that some of the attendees were vegans. She approached Thompson about catering the event. The vegan attendees liked Thompson’s food so much that they suggested she go into business for herself.

Since then, she has cooked meals for dozens of clients who stick with her for a long time. Though she caters to all tastes, most of the meals she cooks are meat-less. Some her of meat-eating clients, she says, have gone vegetarian after finding out from her cooking that they can eliminate meat from their diets without sacrificing taste.

Thompson focuses on organic, locally grown food.  “It’s great for planet, great for the local economy, and it’s way healthier,” she says. She buys food mostly from farms in North Brunswick, East Brunswick and Griggstown.

Why did Thompson choose to cook for a living?

“I love it. I love food. It has such a strong social, spiritual and economic impact on every area of your life.”

Thompson can be reached at (732) 297-5195. Her personal chef services range from $250 to $400 per week, depending on the number of meals prepared.