Raising the Bar
From Raw Foods to Single Origin Chocolate
FarmMaid Foods CEO Katie Reed and partner Josiah Mayo’s unique approach to fostering their plant-based foods enterprise starts with dessert: chocolate, and lots of it.
Two to three metric tons of raw cacao (pronounced “kuh-KOW”) beans will ship to their Truro, Massachusetts, location from Costa Rica each month. Equal to half a shipping container, this will supply the main ingredient for the 1000 pounds of bar chocolate they will produce every thirty days or so, as well as provide a surplus of beans that they’ve already begun marketing to other chocolatiers across the country.
Before the chocolate arm of their business evolved, Reed established FarmMaid Foods. “I had been farming in Truro with Chris Murphy of Nest Wood Farm in 2010 and there was a natural connection for me with growing fresh food and how I ate. I began eating a predominantly raw diet and sharing that cuisine with friends on the Cape.”
Reed’s experience was so transforming that she attended the Living Light School in Mendocino, California in the winter of 2010, becoming a certified raw foods chef, and began conceptualizing her vision for a fresh food venture. FarmMaid Foods was born. “For me, this was a sustainable life change. I gained more knowledge about preparing raw foods and simulating flavors and I learned how to really teach and share what I knew with others.”
Citing her own experience as growing up in a “flexitarian” household, with many choices, Reed feels an incredible energy and vitality in consuming a primarily raw plant-based diet. She believes in eating seasonal foods and sources as much produce as she can from local growers. “And for me,” says Reed “juicing is the key to conquering the day.”
“FarmMaid Foods is an alternative for those who are digging a little deeper to find a more natural and healthy source of food in their diets,” adds Reed. “I work with the bio-individuality of my clients, and we tailor the approach.”
For example, the gluten present in the newer GMO grains we eat now is much more potent than the gluten of heirloom grains, so by eating differently, some clients learn of their gluten intolerance and achieve dramatic results.
The positive outcomes of eating this way can be expansive. “Raw food as a dietary intervention can boost immunity, and treat and prevent diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and skin ailments,” says Reed. She estimates her own diet as being composed of 80 percent raw food. “We begin where people are and transition to a more plant-based diet. It’s not a dogmatic method. You can only benefit.”
“One doesn’t have to abstain from clams or alcohol to yield the results,” says Mayo. “It’s not a two-week regime, but something accessible. Just begin where you are and then the program begins to get traction.”
The premise of this type of diet is that the foods remain enzymatically intact when temperatures do not exceed 117 degrees. The body doesn’t have to work so hard at digestion because the enzymes in the food will be alive. “My live granola,” says Reed “contains sprouted seeds and tastes comparable to traditional recipes, but has better nutrients and is off the charts with active enzymes.”
“We try to craft the flavor profiles and textures of some standard American food choices,” says Mayo. Puréed turnip with a touch of raw cashews added for richness may evoke conventional mashed potatoes. Raw versions of burgers, pizza, lasagna, and even crepes are possible.
“It’s all very doable,” says Reed. “I feel better than ever, and the economics of it all is that the vegetables and fruits are used completely. It comes full circle. I even save the bruised or very ends of veggies in a container over several days. Later they’ll become a delicious soup.”
After she juices, Reed reserves the pulp that is rich with enzymes, vitamins and minerals. “I’ll spread it out and add some nuts or flax seeds and use the dehydrator to create savory crackers,” says Reed, who is allergic to gluten. “That’s how I get the crunchy snacks I sometimes miss.”
FarmMaid Foods unveiled unconventional plant-based prepared foods in the spring of 2011, using the certified kitchen of Hillcrest Pizza in Orleans as their base. By fall they moved to a larger space at the Bradford Natural Market in Provincetown, leaving a year later to establish their own brand and services. Coupled with sales at seasonal outdoor markets, a mobile catering kitchen travels off the beaten path to settings like yoga studios, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, and the Wellfleet Audubon Sanctuary.
Mayo and Reed lecture often, both solo and as a duo. “Fruits of the Flat,” highlighting lesser-known local shellfish, and an introduction to raw foods called “Supercharge Your Day,” were both part of the recent Truro Center of the Arts at Castle Hill’s Culinary Arts Series. In June, Reed reflected on the film The Dark Side of Chocolate, as part of the “Films for Our Future” series, co-sponsored by the Truro Library and Sustainable CAPE: Center for Agricultural Preservation and Education.
A Cape native, Mayo has pursued marine vocations for over 20 years, including commercial fishing, sailing/fishing charters, and whale watching. He is an experienced caterer, runs raw bars, and is a passionate forager, culling local spots for berries, mushrooms, and shellfish.
Demonstrating his chiffonade skills for a recent audience, Mayo prepares a just-picked kale salad. After finely cutting the vegetable, he employs an oil massage technique that gives the green a much more supple texture. “Without steaming the kale, it is now much more tender,” says Mayo. “Manipulating it breaks down the chlorophyll in the cell walls and makes it more bio-available for complete digestion.”
The impetus to widen their culinary base to include chocolate evolved from the need to have a strong financial foundation and included a pervasive amount of research about bean sourcing and chocolate production. Speaking of the Outer Cape, Reed says, “Businesses struggle with the seasonality of this place. The launch of Chequessett Chocolate will strengthen our fiscal position as a lifestyle company dedicated to optimal health.”
Chocolate has been enjoyed since antiquity, and the pair views it as a complement to a raw foods diet. “It’s a superfood,” says Reed. “A complex and very interesting nutritional entity, chocolate is an anti-oxidant that supplies magnesium, and affects our central nervous system. It raises our blood pressure a little and is a slight cardiac stimulant, but without the jitters.”
Mayo adds, “Chocolate produces tryptophan which raises our serotonin levels; these are our bliss chemicals. It can provide a high euphoria for some, and relaxes others.”
Although they didn’t know each other at the time, both Reed and Mayo had been on the cacao trail for years. Mayo usually winters in Central America, predominantly Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru, and Reed had visited as well.
“Magical,” says Mayo. “For me, seeing a live tree of cacao beans for the first time, in 2008 in Peru, was just a tremendously magical experience.”
Producing bars of single-origin chocolate that embodied the essential qualities of the place where it was grown became their joint quest. They returned to Central America together, but finding the cacao farm they wanted to source from took time.
Beans are chosen for specific traits such as sweet, floral, fruit, spicy and woody notes, not unlike grapes for wine. A chocolate’s taste reflects the sun, the humidity and the soil where it is grown. Immediately after picking, beans are allowed to ferment for several days. This process, as well as the production methods of the chocolatier can either preserve or erase these qualities, the terroir of the chocolate.
“We were seeking a very high quality bean, but also one from a farm that was fair-trade certified,” says Mayo. “There are many big questions with chocolate involving child labor issues and the environment.”
Their answer came in the final of six weeks spent trekking to plantations near the rainforest in Costa Rica. They finally found both the flavor and the farmer they sought. Mayo says, “One who pays his workers equitably, and treats the land ethically.”
“We’ll feature mostly dark chocolate which has a higher nutrient load, and use a very focused but gentle processing to avoid breaking down trace minerals and erasing the essential flavors,” says Reed. “Initially we’ll use organic fair trade raw sugar to sweeten but the intention is to add a chocolate made with a coconut nectar from Bali, Indonesia. It’s a bit more costly, but adds an option with a lower glycemic level.”
Chequessett Chocolate will offer five varieties in two-ounce bars: Dark 70%, Almond, Sea Salt (crystals from the Wellfleet Sea Salt Company,) Cacao Nib (bits of cacao bean,) and Mayan Spice (hints of cardamom and cayenne.) For those who can’t choose just one, half-ounce tasting squares will sweeten the deal.
FarmMaid Foods will open their 8 Highland Road location in Truro in the summer of 2013. Through an observation window, visitors may watch the chocolate-making process. Chocolate bars, nibs (which Mayo sprinkles on bananas) and cocoa will be sold at the retail space. Juices, smoothies, coffee, teas and drinking chocolate will be available for enjoying in the café.
Down the road, the pair envisions expanding their eatery to feature the healthy, clean and affordable cuisine they’ve embraced, heart and soul. Mayo muses, “A vegetarian roadhouse?”
For now, the pair is devoted to chocolate. Reed says, “We want to nail it.”
Writer Michelle Koch lives in Orleans with her daughters Chloe and Camille. They certainly all enjoy their veggies, but look forward to sampling Chequessett Chocolate.