INTERVIEW: Danielle Ricciardi of 'Chickpea and Olive,' a New Brooklyn Vegan Joint That's About to Take Over Your Kitchen

August 31, 2012 4:42 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Chickpea and Olive
Chickpea and Olive (Photo: Chickpea and Olive)

FoodNRecipe reached out to Danielle Ricciardi of 'Chickpea and Olive,' a Brooklyn pop-up with a stand at Smorgasburg and aspirations of being so much more, to ask about their plans for the future. This is what she had to say.

FoodNRecipe's Anthony Smith: What's the mission with Chickpea and Olive?

Chickpea and Olive's Danielle Ricciardi: To change hearts and minds one meal at a time. We strive to provide organic, vegan, and local food that is good for the planet, the animals and you!

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We like to say we serve peace on a plate.

AS: Where did the name come from?

DR: When we first started the company we planned on being Mediterranean focused. We had tossed around many ideas and were thinking very seriously about little ceci (ceci is chickpea in Italian) or ceci & olive but we soon realized that most people would not understand ceci or how to say it. so we went with the english translation. Now chickpea & olive have become our nicknames for each other. I think the battle has been won and Danielle is Chickpea & Dan is Olive.

AS: You're more than just a food stand at Williamsburg. Can you talk about some of your other programs and their goals?

DR: Chickpea & Olive teaches cooking classes, catering, chef services and we really want to start doing a monthly supper club. We are in the process of developing packaged products such as our Habanero Ketchup, our Vegan Brioche Bread, & our Phatty Beet Burgers. Hoping to debut the ketchup at Smorgasburg by October and during the winter work out all the logistics to get our other products in health and natural food stores throughout NYC.

AS: What kinds of people have been coming to them?

DR: Our cooking classes attract vegans and omnivores alike. people come to learn new cooking techniques like how to roll tamales or how to get the perfect soccarat on a paella. And while we teach, we tend to hop up on our soap box and wax about the important health and cultural benefits of veganism. What our students do with their new skills once they go home is really up to them, but for the 2 hours they are with us we open their eyes to what we believe to be a kinder, more gentle life style.

The cultural cross-section that comes to our booth at Smorgasburg is similarly spread across the board. A lot of times it is the Vegans that come looking for us, but by no means are they the heart of our market. We offer a break from the meat-centric festival of beef and pork that takes over East River Park on Saturdays, and our signs deceptively lure in carnivorous appetites with promises all natural "grass fed" BEETS! Seriously though, people keep coming back, sometimes two and three times in the same day. Maybe its the crusty beet char, or the meaty chew of mushroom, or the layer of fried daiya cheese cracklin, or the soft, homemade buns.

AS: How often do you get omnivores/carnivores to swoon for your food?

DR: Have yet to entice a Tyrannosaurus Rex with one of our burgers. Our dog loves them. Frankly, most of our customers are omnivores, and every week we see a lot of familiar faces.

AS: What are your plans for the future, both when Smorgasburg ends and beyond that?

DR: One day we would like a fleet of restaurants and a small vegan empire of natural, artisanal vegan packaged foods. I think we want to start with the packages, and move to restaurants a little further down the line.

AS: Any plans for a Brick and Mortar restaurant in the future? If so, at which neighborhood?

DR: No official plans yet. We like to knock around ideas for vegan eateries, but they all take place about five years down the line.

AS: Has there been a recipe you've been testing that hasn't quite worked out yet?

DR: Still working out the kinks of our next burger patty: tex-mex squash hominy burger, sesame seed bun.

For more coverage of Chickpea and Olive, check out our list of the Top Five Vegan Spots in New York to see how they did!

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