Harvest & Revel Is Reimagining Access To Food In The Most Beautiful Way
For whatever reason the Food Pyramid is where the average American child's education of food ends —despite being the main source of nourishment to the body. Food is vital, food is life. But for so many communities, quality food is in limited (if existing at all) supply.
Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn-based entrepreneur and wellness coach, Sara Elise has made this the focus of Harvest & Revel. The 28-year-old's catering company does private events but also works to provide affordable food options in the historically Black neighborhood. She recently launched Blind Seed, a organization that nurtures growth for city-dwellers with an interest in clean living and self-expansion through events and retreats.
We talked to the entrepreneur about her love of food, leaving unhealthy behavior behind, and being self-assured in her awesomeness.
1. How did your love of food evolve? When did you realize you wanted to cook professionally?
While working in the financial services industry (and quite frankly, while being depressed and self-destructive) I realized I needed to make a massive life pivot. So I began to explore food as a tool for my self-care and healing. Through this exploration- I was cooking a lot more, researching how eating certain foods affected my well-being and impacted my mood throughout the day, and eventually began hosting “Seasonal Tasting Events,” an invitation for my community members to experience what I was learning. People began to approach me at these events inquiring about me cooking for them for special life occasions- so I decided to build a business around my interest. I founded Bed-Stuy Kitchen in 2012 while working at my job in Private Wealth Management. After the business became lucrative enough for me to leave my job and I brought on a partner to run the kitchen program as the Head Chef, I left my job to pursue running BSK full time. BSK was later reborn in 2016 as Harvest & Revel and we've been skyrocketing ever since!
2. Are there things you do on a daily basis to perfect your craft?
I put a huge amount of focus on my self-care and wellness each day. As someone who has a history of addiction, mental health issues, and anxiety —I've come to realize that it's extremely important that I pay attention to taking care of my mind and body first and foremost. Only when I am stable and feeling healthy am I able to to focus, remain calm, think clearly, stay organized, interact with clients, and manage the different aspects of Harvest & Revel to the best of my ability.
3. Can you speak to the correlation between access to organic food and economically disadvantaged communities?
Absolutely! This is something that Ora Wise (the kitchen manager of Harvest & Revel) and I think about and discuss frequently. Unfortunately and historically, because of how immensely fucked up our food system is in the U.S., economically disadvantaged communities have very little direct access to organic, local, seasonal, and nutritious food. The folks in these communities then exist in a cycle of paying too much money for food that isn't good for their bodies and minds and suffering from various illnesses and mental health issues, many of which could have been avoided through a healthful diet. Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn is definitely a community where we see this cycle exist.
4. What solutions are available in communities like Bed-Stuy for access to fresh foods?
One of the ways I've seen the issue addressed in Bed-Stuy, specifically, is through the community-run gardens that are part of the neighborhood's cultural landscape. Tons of community members and various schools help to nurture these gardens and thus benefit from the crops they harvest each season. Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation is an organization also focusing on addressing the issue by providing a food pantry with healthful foods, teaching young people how to grow and harvest fresh produce, and teaching community members basic cooking skills.
5. What's Harvest & Revel's role in supplying affordable food options in disadvantaged communities?
At Harvest & Revel, one of the ways we address this issue is through our Harvest Justice project. We ask our clients who have the resources to pay for event catering if they'd like to make a donation to our project that benefits NEBHDCo's Growing Youth Power Program. All donations go in full to this program, that not only combats the results of a failed system by teaching cooking and gardening skills, but also aims at impacting the root of the issues- working to change the system by offering jobs and leadership training.
6. When did you first realize you were Black?
I have always known that I am Black. Even though I'm multiracial, in my household there was a great deal of pride around being Black, so I never had confusion about that like I think a lot of multiracial folks have. However, I think I first realized that society views being Black as a disadvantage when I was in first or second grade and was told by another child that I couldn't play with them and their friends on the playground because I was Black. That was my first time being overtly discriminated against because of my race, to my knowledge.
I also think that there are a lot of stereotypes around multiracial/biracial folks claiming that we're confused about who we are. I'm not confused about who I am. I like what I like and feel a strong sense of self. I think that at times, other people are confused about who I am and how I present and try to identify me as "not Black enough" or "not White enough" and these projected identifications are what has actually given me the most confusion. I don't have to be "enough" for anyone because I simply am who I am. I am "enough" for mySelf and all versions of mySelf that I represent.