If you haven’t had the opportunity of meeting Rachel of Miss Rachel’s Pantry, then you’re missing out on a great local personality. Located on Passyunk Avenue in South Philly, Miss Rachel’s Pantry is a vegan catering and meal delivery company serving dinner on Saturday nights, and private parties for breakfast/lunch/dinner. With one main family-style dining table that seats up to 12 guests, Rachel has redesigned the idea of dinner. For a fixed price, Saturday evenings can now become a time to eat four courses of delicious homestyle vegan cuisine at a table full of new friends!
A native of Bucks County and currently living in South Philly, Rachel was a fresh burst of energy to meet. As a vegan chef and caterer, Rachel excels in providing the vegan and foodie community in Philadelphia with delicious and healthy eating options year-round. With catering options for events as well as a Meal At Home concept where her team delivers dinner to your family during the week, Rachel provides a new take on casual dining and healthy food choices for anyone. Let’s learn a bit more about Rachel and how she started her business!
Femme & Fortune: What inspired you to create Miss Rachel’s Pantry?
Rachel: I started Miss Rachel’s Pantry (which was actually called Miss Rachel’s Traveling Fare upon conception and was the working name for about a year) at the end of 2007, wanting to fill a niche for good-for-you, oven to doorstep vegetarian food. I did private in-home cooking, had my meal delivery service and would sell sandwiches at punk shows. The first year was all vegetarian, and moved to vegan as I did.
Femme & Fortune: What type of resources did you use when starting your own business?
Rachel: I dove in head first. I asked my parents and husband (then boyfriend) for a lot of advice, met some awesome women in the industry who have served as AMAZING mentors, and learned to rely on myself. I learned to be incredibly self-motivated.
Femme & Fortune: What’s a typical day at Miss Rachel’s Pantry for you like?
Rachel: Mondays and Tuesdays I run around like a maniac getting our Meals at Home orders cooked, packed and delivered with the help of my staff. The rest of the week is book-keeping, lunch catering, wedding tastings and venue visits. On Friday nights we normally have a catering gig or private dinner, and on Saturday nights we have our Farmhouse Table Dinner, so I’m cooking all afternoon into the night. Sundays I try not to work!
Rachel: At our space, there’s just one table. Guests gather at our Farmhouse Table, with seating for 12, and enjoy a 4-course meal. It’s not often you get to interact with strangers whom you’re dining with – oftentimes at traditional restaurants even making eye contact with the person at the table next to you is awkward. The Table offers a unique experience. It certainly takes many people out of their comfort zones, but having that human interaction enriches the dining experience!
Femme & Fortune: How have you built your current team at your restaurant? What are some of your tips for hiring a great team to help your business.
Rachel: I rely on people who are passionate, respectful and have great skills. It’s not enough to hire people because you like them and they’re genuine and honest. That was my mistake when I first started hiring… they actually need to know how to cook, too! I want our working relationships to be great, and the key to that is good communication. If you’re harboring negative feelings or resentment, you can’t work well together. I think it’s different for bosses who are hands off or who do separate tasks from the rest of their staff. There’s also the issue now of having to step away from the kitchen to work on other things (meetings, paperwork, etc.) and making sure all of the staff is in good shape to work independently.
Femme & Fortune: Do you have any goals for growth that you can share with us? Where would you like to see yourself and Miss Rachel’s Pantry in 5 years?
Rachel: I am feverishly working on a cookbook, I’d also like to grow the number of cooking classes we can offer, and I hope to roll out some jar sauces soon! I’d like to see myself with a bigger staff and a bigger kitchen. We’re working in a shoebox right now.
Femme & Fortune: What are some of your favorite Philadelphia locations or hidden gems?
Rachel: Gems: love Hardena down here in South Philly. Best (okay, only) Indonesian food I’ve ever had, and it’s delicious. Did you know tempeh originated in Indonesia? (No, we did not Rachel!) Marrakesh is the place to go for delicious Moroccan food in a dreamy, romantic dining room. They’ll make the whole menu vegan for you (all 7 courses!).
Otherwise, the usual suspects for me are Breezy’s (newish place in South Philly… good sandwiches delivered!), Su Xing House (hands down BEST vegetarian Chinese food in this whole city), Grindcore House for coffee and treats, Blackbird Pizzeria for their Cubano sandwich and Vedge for fancy dinner.
Femme & Fortune: What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring restaurant owners and entrepreneurs?
Rachel: Nothing is as easy as it seems. This s-h-i-t is HARD work. You will miss out on birthday parties, family dinners, cuddling with your pets, normalcy. You have to give it everything, and you have to constantly step back and look at what you’re doing with a fresh set of eyes. Your customers can and will go somewhere else if you don’t live up to their expectations, and they mean everything to you – they’re the reason you do what you do, and the reason you can continue doing what you do.
Thank you so much to Rachel for letting us bug her for an interview during the busy holiday season! If you’ve made it this far into the interview, we’re pretty certain your mouth is watering and your belly is intrigued. We definitely recommend trying one of Rachel’s Meals At Home or even reserving a spot at her weekly Farmhouse Table soon (her Valentine’s Day meal below is a must!). Stay connected with Miss Rachel’s Pantry via Facebook and Twitter.