This month we sat down Roni Shapiro, the owner of Healthy Gourmet To Go to learn about her vegan business journey.
Healthy Gourmet To Go is not only a sit down cafe but specializes in food delivery service, that provides 10 different meals weekly. The menu varies week to week with majority of contents remaining freezer-friendly until opened for dining. However, all meals arrive fresh and ready to heat and eat. Healthy Gourmet To Go is ideal for busy singles or couples, families, new moms, elderly, injured folks, or those recuperating from illness or surgery. Deliveries go as far north as Saratoga Springs and down through New York City, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Connecticut. See below for an exclusive offer for CRVN members.
How did your vegan journey begin?
As a small child, at dinner time, I often flushed the meat portion of our meals down the toilet or feed them to my cats under the table. I did love eating meat but there was a knowing, a feeling that there was something wrong with eating living, breathing, feeling beings. After all, we were the house on the block everyone brought stray cats to. We fed feral cats in our backyard for decades.
It felt so wrong to love some animals and eat others. I didn’t know I had a choice. Not until college. Freshman year I discovered a vegetarian dining room on campus. I took the slow road to becoming a vegetarian giving up eating one animal at a time, ending with dairy products. I say to people all the time, “If I knew then what I know now, dairy products would have been the first thing I gave up, not the last.” Eating them seemed so benign, “Nobody gets killed, right?” was what I always told myself.
Then I learned how veal calves were a tragic by-product of the dairy industry: baby male cows stolen from their moms, chained up, turned into anemic 4 month olds, then slaughtered and called ‘veal’. In light of the #metoo era, reality is, female cows are systematically raped, or otherwise known as artificially inseminated, over and over again. Their bodies produce milk for their babies like all mammals do. Their milk and their babies at birth are stolen from them. The horror goes on and on but I was uneducated about these facts so I held onto cow milk, cow cheese, cow ice cream, etc. for way too long. Nowadays there are divine alternatives everywhere. I started making nut and tofu cheeses in the 80’s for my clients and creating dairy-free alternatives has been one of my greatest joys.
What led you start Healthy Gourmet to Go?
In 1990 I was working at my family’s 100 year old coat manufacturing business. While there I learned the in’s and out’s of running a business but knew I wasn’t happy in that industry. At the same time I was volunteering at the Manhattan Center for Living where we cooked large amounts of vegan food for people with life-challenging illnesses. Expert healers and vegan chefs came to speak. An impressive man named Neal Bernard spoke there and I really got how veganism not only prevented cruelty to animals it also had curative powers to prevent many diseases. So I created a simple way for busy New Yorkers to get prepared vegan meals delivered to their doors to help eat fewer animals. The first 10 years of the business had a heart-healthy focus. We used no oil after I was inspired by the work of Dr. Dean Ornish.
Healthy Gourmet To Go was run out of many different spaces for almost 20 years until the first storefront was opened creating the first all vegan and gluten-free cafe in the Hudson Valley about 7 years ago. I was riding on the back of my then-boyfriend’s motorcycle and saw a store for rent while we were idling at a red light. I wrote the phone number on my hand. It was very clearly meant to be because at the lease signing my landlord turned to me and said, “Your last name is Shapiro! Are you related to the Shapiro’s who owned a business called Shapiro & Sons in the garment center?” Turns out my landlord’s mom worked for my grandfather, Dave and his brothers in 1943. She had been talking about them her entire life so my landlord had a habit of asking every Shapiro she met if they were related to Shapiro and Sons. I was the one who said, “Yes!”
What’s been your proudest memory as a vegan business owner?
My passion in life is inspiring compassion towards animals so being a vegan food business owner leaves me feeling proud fairly often. I love providing a vehicle for people to connect their hearts and minds to what’s going into their mouths, 3 times a day. Making a living doing my small part to end pain and suffering for animals is as cool as it gets. The cafe being open to the public means non-vegans curiously or inadvertently walk in and often end up loving what they eat. I’d say some of my prouder moments are when people come back months or years later and tell me I inspired them to go vegan.
Do you have any tips for others who wish to start their own vegan food business?
Figure out what you love to do and what makes your heart sing. Then figure out a way to make a living at it. One of my favorite sayings is, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!” Vegan businesses are all the rage these days so if you have a great idea, it’s a good time to manifest it and make it happen.
Where can someone go to learn more about your work?
For the weekly menu or to order check out: HealthyGourmetToGo.com
To sign up to receive the weekly e-menu go to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also call or text to get the menu or to order: 914-388-2162.
Healthy Gourmet Cafe is a designated vegan and gluten-free cafe open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays for sit down or take out with a full menu and daily specials.
The Meal Delivery:
If you’re busy, don’t feel well, or don’t feel like cooking, enjoy a Bag of cruelty-free, ready-to-eat meals all week long without lifting a finger. Simply order a Bag made in Healthy Gourmet To Go’s vegan gluten-free facility. The Bag will arrive at your door every Wednesday or whenever you’d like.
Delivery spans as far north as Saratoga Springs down through Albany, Westchester, into Manhattan and parts of New Jersey, Queens, Connecticut and Brooklyn. Meals are delivered fresh and at least 80% freeze well for storage.
Keep an eye open for some of Healthy Gourmet To Go’s products on local health food store shelves by this summer, including:
“Sea” Caesar Dressing
Chickpea UN-tuna salad
CRVN MEMBERS ONLY: Mention this article and get $25 off your first order (the Standard Bag valued at $175 with 10 pints/quarts of food or the Family Bag valued at $195 with 6 quarts of food).