The Wellness-Focused Chef That Sees Healing in Community
Putting vegan food at the center of connection, nourishment, and giving back.
In 2017, tastemaker and restauranteur Francesca Chaney opened a semi-permanent pop-up cafe in Brooklyn, NY. An extension of her bottled juice pop-up that she had started just two years prior, the cafe evolved into the local, plant-based treasure now known as Sol Sips. With the restaurant’s expansion into the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space on February 2, 2022 — the inaugural menu option being the restaurant’s cult-favorite Plant’d Chick’n, which is made from oyster mushrooms — we took the opportunity to talk to the chef and founder about what, exactly, makes her local brand so unique. As we discovered, her brand puts wellness into its very mission, with an emphasis on nutrient-forward ingredients and community-conscious living. But excitingly, their expansion now makes it possible for those of us outside of Brooklyn to experience the phenomenon of plant-based soul food.
The Wellness Behind the Brand
“My passion has always been wellness,” Chaney says. “Before I opened Sol Sips, I worked at an apothecary, and I was an apprentice at a wellness center. I also became a full-spectrum doula, and so far, I have attended ten births.” Food’s connection to health is clear — when selected consciously, it becomes one of the most powerful tools in empowered health and living. This passion for wellness is what ultimately pulled Chaney, who was not always plant-based, into the world of allergen-free, gluten-free, plant-based cuisine.
“I grew up in a health-conscious environment [and] have always been curious about preventative health using food to care for my body,” she says. “I started to take inventory on my body after I ate, and I gravitated towards the foods that would make me feel energized and full, but not weighed down.” This is exactly how she now cooks — plant-based, gluten-free, and allergen-free — because of her own, consciously-lived experience of the way that diet can transform wellness.
The Expansion of Plant-Based Cuisine
This new venture is also an indication of the undeniable expansion of vegan living and plant-based diets that is taking place among those that care about health, animal welfare, and sustainability. But as the options for non-meat eaters expand — with delicious meat-alternatives that taste eerily similar to the real thing — but experts have expressed concern over the impact of these overly processed treats. Thus, there is a real demand for health-forward, allergen-free, plant-based consumer packaged goods.
This is where Sol Sips’ new line of at-home Plant’d Chick’n comes in, with Chaney noting that she loves small-batch, locally-sourced, and intentionally-packed goods and products. “Since the plant-based industry is evolving rapidly, I wanted to expand our reach and transcend the restaurant space by offering some of the favorites on our menu as ready-made offerings,” she says. With health at the core of her brand, she emphasizes that it was important to them to keep their packaged foods “preservative-free and handmade to maintain the integrity of the food.”
The Healing in Community
But while the menu is the brand’s shining star, there is another component to what makes the brand so special, which is that it plays a real role in its community. Locally, it serves as a place where connections can be fostered over good food — two of our core pillars (connect and nourish) at rē•spin. But in order to make these values accessible, Chaney also gives back to her community with sliding-scale brunches and meal kits, among other things.
“Coexisting with my community is important to me,” she says. “Sol Sips has always been about redistributing food resources back into the community through its sliding scale brunches, sliding-scale meal kits, mutual aid, and by partnering with community organizers.” When asked where this inspiration came from, she simply notes, “My community continues to pour so much love into Sol Sips, and I’m always thinking of how we can reciprocate that energy.” In this same communal spirit, you can now share in the experience of Sol Sips cuisine even if you do not live close by. You will certainly walk away rē•thinking the notion that healthy, plant-based cuisine has to be boring or unsatisfying. In fact, Sol Sips proves that you can give back to your community while enjoying soul food that is simultaneously savory and nourishing.