Hi, Allison! Tell us about yourself!
Born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in the farmlands of New Jersey, I made my way to DC for college at American University. It was in college during my rowing years that I realized how important food was to the body and how it impacted how you felt and performed. It led me to want to learn more and I spent some time in Italy, and eventually went to culinary school. I love traveling, food, people, and music, anything that brings people together.
Years later after cooking in restaurants and fine dining, I became part of the culinary team at DC Central Kitchen as an executive chef helping to oversee school food and catering services. My time there opened me up to my goals as a chef and as a businessperson built on community. I sent out to create a social enterprise that would deliver great food products and yet give back to the community in many ways. That’s when I created Pine, Benefit Corporation. The mission of Pine (Sosna translates to Pine from Polish to English) is to do something different, feed people differently and create a positive change in the community through various food service related ventures. Pine is currently the parent company of my Cooking with Alli radio show debuting August 5, 2012, the consulting arm for Fitbound Cooking School and camps, and the future fast casual restaurant concept. Whenever you purchase a service from any of these ventures you are donating to Micro Greens, a program that teaches kids to cook on a food stamp/ SNAP budget.
That’s incredible and sounds like a lot of benefit will be going to the community. Speaking of benefit, what’s a benefit corporation?
A benefit corporation means that we are legally responsible and accountable to provide a service to the community in which we operate. For example, when you hire me to make you dinner or teach you cooking lessons, or sponsor my radio show, or sign up for a Fitbound cooking camp, a percentage of your bill goes to my program called MicroGreens that teaches kids to cook healthy on a food stamp/ SNAP program budget. By buying something you want you are also providing a good to the community. That is the benefit of my corporation. You can find out more here: http://peerbackers.com/projects/help-micro-greens-eat-to-teach
It sounds like you probably eat ridiculously well. For those of us who life off of what I like to call the three C’s: Chipotle, Chopt and Cocktails, what do you have in your fridge?
Being healthy and eating right are the cornerstones of living a healthy, happy life. I make my fiancée lunches and breakfast for the week while she’s on the Obama campaign, and it’s important that I buy healthy foods to keep us going. Bulk items are key. Buying onions and sweet potatoes by the pack, greens, lots of canned beans, kidney beans, black beans, polenta, barley, brown rice, and a few cheeses, and of course tons of seasonal fruit. Between fruit, grains, and veggies, you’ll have a ton of energy and feel good. I can’t go more than a day without veggies without my body feeling withdrawal. But I use half and half for my coffee, always have good beer, and definitely some Nutella nearby because everything is good in moderation.
Speaking of making your own schedule how was the transition from working in an office to working on your own?
This is a great question. I am a very industrious, disciplined person, and I knew that I would probably end up being lonely (even though I have two corgis) but would do my work. That was actually harder than I thought. You tend to get caught up in household stuff, doing laundry, painting, fixing things. I have a few businesses that I am helping to run and consult on and with planning a wedding and remodeling a house, the first month of not working went rather quickly. I found that I needed to gym in the morning and keep a schedule and make meetings happen in the afternoon when I would get working-block sitting at home. I had to have that outside source of energy in the afternoon or else I would not want to work. Having two corgis also helps to make you go outside and walk more too, which has been great.
What advice do you give to others wanting to take the jump?
If you believe in it, life will work itself out. The best part of taking the jump was not thinking it would all come together but whatever happened along the way would be genuine because my heart was in it. It was never scary leaving; it’s all about viewing it as the next opportunity.
What’s your biggest goal for your career? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
My goal is to help get the obesity rate in America down by working with the thousands of people and organizations dedicated to educating people on food and how to live a healthier life. I see myself running a business and doing more national-scaled (and possibly international) work with kids and nutrition. We have a ton of food in America that doesn’t end up on the tables, but rather 50 percent ends up back in the landfills. We aren’t using our food resources well, and I would like to help still be a part of the wave of activists that helps to make people feel healthier and happier—that can be anywhere from helping to remodel the food in our country’s hospitals and schools to elderly care to food outlets on the highway. Our food systems and how we source and what we source need to shift. I want to be a part of that culture shift.
What is your biggest challenge to getting there? And what do you think will help you the most?
Change takes time and patience. It’s an amazing skill to grow and mature your patience. I’ve learned a lot and become a better person personally and professionally by growing my patience. But it’s not easy and others are quick to shut you down and ignore you. It’s going to take a solid belief on the grassroots level and the political level to move this country to a healthier place. We have that now but we have to keep that momentum going, especially in the private sector.
That’s incredible, Allison. I know I’ll probably be hiring you to help me out sooner rather than later! Thanks so much for being a DotW! And everyone, check out Allison’s amazing Peerbackers campaign. I’ve already given, what’s stopping you??