By Alessio Caligaris | Photos by S. Saxon
Giving Columbus access to quality and healthy food is something that the owners at Bare Roots Farmacy take very seriously, and are honored to be involved in. Besides, their food is local, thoughtful, and, most importantly, delicious.
It would be tempting to call farm-to-table and clean eating a trend. What we have seen is that there is a thriving industry of like-minded entrepreneurs who have proven that this is a revolution in how we think about food. With the abundance of drive-troughs, and the tendency to make food as quick and cheap as possible, we are conditioned to think of food as a mere commodity. Olivia Amos and Brandi Whitney of Bare Roots Farmacy want to fundamentally change our relationship with food. To them, food is medicine that is vital to nourishment and growth. They are committed to provide “medicine” in the form of responsibly sourced and organic food that is just as tasty as it is good for you. SVM sat down with Olivia and Brandi to discuss their newest restaurant venture and their interesting perspective on food and nutrition.
How did you personally get into the health-conscious restaurant world? Olivia: I have always been known as the “health nut” by my friends and family. Healthy cooking using fresh ingredients was the way I grew up. My grandparents, aunt and my parents were instrumental in teaching us that eating healthy is a lifestyle not a fad diet. My mom did not allow soda or processed food in our home, we were eating organic before it became the trend. After I graduated from high school, I worked my way through college in the restaurant industry and moved to Atlanta after I finished school. Eatzi’s was my favorite restaurant in the Atlanta area. I loved that you could get fresh, healthy selections in a bustling market atmosphere that was convenient. I traveled a lot for work and would always seek out the restaurant/market concept during my travels. Healthy and convenient with a cool vibe has always been sort of an obsession of mine and a concept I wanted to bring to Columbus when I moved back home seven years ago. I threw the idea around with different people over the years but until I met Brandi, no one had the same vision and philosophy on food being medicine.
Brandi: I grew up in a household where my parents focused on a healthy diet. It became a passion of mine to live a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. When I enrolled in culinary school, I knew I wanted to focus on simply, locally based ingredients and making healthy food delicious. When I graduated from culinary school it was natural for me to seek out a health based women’s facility in Vermont to do my apprenticeship. I worked hand in hand with dieticians and nutritionists who further fueled my desire to focus my career on making healthy food delicious. Fast forward to moving back to Columbus in 2013, and I saw a need in the CrossFit market for a delivery service based on the Paleo and Whole30 meal plans. I found my niche and started Bare Roots Paleo in June of 2014. Liv and I met through CrossFit and quickly our families became friends. After a few months of talking and a failed attempt with another potential partner, she and I embarked on the journey of Bare Roots Farmacy.
How did you come up with the name, Bare Roots Farmacy? Brandi’s company was named Bare Roots Paleo prior to her and I partnering. We did not want to be pigeon holed in the Paleo lifestyle so she came up with the word Farmacy which fit perfectly with our message of Food is Medicine.
What makes Bare Roots Farmacy different than other healthy restaurants? First of all, I believe it is Brandi’s passion and commitment to quality and consistency. We both believe being true to our message and brand is of utmost importance as well. Bare Roots is truly farm to table and we focus on supporting all of our local farms as much as we possibly can. There is also an educational piece to what we do. We want our customers to understand and become knowledgeable for themselves so they can understand the reasoning behind the ingredients we use and how they can benefit our bodies and our health.
Since Bare Roots Farmacy is focused on providing farm-to-table fresh foods, what challenges does that present? Obviously, during the growing season, the challenges are minimal because we have so many great farms in our area. If one has an issue with a crop, we can normally lean on another one for that same ingredient. In saying that though, supply is still the biggest challenge we face. There may be a day or two we have to take a dish off the menu because we are not able to source it. That has definitely been something we are having to educate our customers on. You hate to tell them we are out of something but we are out because we are doing our absolute best to stay true to supporting our farmers.
How do you balance your desire to be as sustainable as possible with the fundamental expenses of running a business at scale? We would love to say we are 100% organic 100% of the time but as a small business owner, that is just not possible. We would have to price ourselves out of the market in order to do that. I feel confident in saying we are 90% organic 100% of the time. We are 100% non-GMO and that is something that we will always be committed to.
What are your personal favorite menu items? Olivia: The Grilled Green Tomato Stack. I love fried green tomatoes, so this dish satisfies my craving for the southern staple but it is healthy at the same time. I don’t feel bad after I eat it like I would eating the fried version.
Brandi: The sweet potato hash. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day so this dish is not only satisfying but it gives me the fuel I need to make it through a long day in the kitchen.
If you could give readers one piece of advice for how they can improve their relationships with food, what would that be? Less is more. Less ingredients, smaller portions, use only fresh ingredients and make eating healthy a lifestyle not something you do for 30 days at a time.
For the years to come, what do you want your restaurant to be known for? Helping the community realize that eating healthy can be delicious and convenient. We live in such a fast paced society that we tend to think we don’t have time to eat healthy.