We spoke with Kailey Gilchrist, creator and owner of NONA. She makes totally pourable, perfectly dippable rich and creamy sauces, without the use of cream (or any dairy, soy, gluten, or GMOs, and it’s vegan). We found out why she has had to crowdfund her family recipe, what this entrepreneur tells herself every morning to keep going, and about her unconventional subway/cashew workout.
Why are you so passionate about sauce?
…because I’m a saucy lady!
Haha, but really: Sauce is great because it can easily transform and enhance any dish. As a long time vegan (10 years and counting!) one of the few things I miss and crave is warm creamy comfort foods. The Alfredo recipe is one that I developed years ago with my late Italian mother. It was always my favourite dish, and one I looked forward to when heading home from university during breaks.
You started selling your recipes under the name Soul to Bowl Sauces. Why the change?
Soul to Bowl was actually a name that my mom came up with during a brainstorming session for my potential future vegan business (I believe I was about 14 years old), so I was sentimentally attached to it. Turns out there is a restaurant in another province that has a patented menu item “Soul in a Bowl Poutine” and they found this to be confusing for consumers. Unfortunately for me, they patented theirs first, so I decided to respect their obvious passion for the name and just let it go. Moving forward, I’m happy to have switched to a shorter & simpler name. (If your instincts are telling you there’s more to this story, you’re right).
What does your new brand mean to you?
My mother always talked about growing old and becoming a Vegan Italian Nonna with a big silver bun of hair. NONA reflects my own inner Nonna, and the Vegan Italian Nonna that my mom always wanted to become, but did not have the chance to. NONA likes to nourish people with delicious healthy food. NONA has NO dairy, NO gluten, NO GMOs and NO soy!
Was there a moment when you considered quitting the sauce business?
There were several, to be honest: carrying 25lbs of raw cashews on each shoulder through the crowded TTC subway, tripping down streetcar stairs with a broken wheely cart full of 40 sauce jars, pots & bowls, being laughed at for thinking I could start a legitimate business… to name a few.
But ultimately, my “WHY” for being in business is too big to ever let me quit. I wrote this way back when I first started and I remind myself of it every morning:
I’m doing this for my mother. I’m doing this because she loved to nurture people with food, and so do I. I’m doing this for animals, because I am a vegan and I believe that no animal should be used by a human for any purpose if said human can live perfectly well without doing so. I’m doing this to provide options for other food lovers – so that the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t seem so impossible. I’m doing this because my mama always believed in me and encouraged me to make a difference in the world – and I believe that this might make a small difference. I’m doing this because some day, I may have enough money to give back to communities and efforts that I believe in. I’m doing this because I love food. I love life. I love animals. I love people. I love cooking. I love feeding people. I love my mother, and I love our vegan Alfredo sauce.
Are all of your customers vegan?
Nope! It’s funny when my non-vegan customers come to tell me about their creations using the sauce: they approach all giddy and excited, “Guess what we made? Steak with mushrooms and your…. your…sauce…sorry??” Also, my sister is always telling me how great my Alfredo is over chicken.
Although I’m a strict vegan myself, I try to respect everyone’s personal choices, and I’m happy to provide at least one vegan item to accompany their meal (with hopes that it sparks a “hmm if this is delicious and vegan, what else is?” response).
Many of my customers are simply lactose-intolerant or cannot consume dairy for religious/cultural reasons, so the sauces are a great option for them. Others are simply looking for a healthier version of their favourite foods.
So your Cheesy + Alfredo sauces aren’t just for pasta?
Certainly not! They taste great poured over steamed greens like broccoli & asparagus, they mix into rice to make a creamy risotto, if you mix them with a bit of citrus juice or vinegar they transform into salad dressings – many friends of NONA have told me that they just dip crackers right into the jar!
Why is your shelf/fridge life so short?
Siiiiiiighh. The refrigerated shelf life is short because I refuse to put preservatives in my products.
Actually, with the help of the food scientists at George Brown College, we’ve got the shelf life from 10 days (which it was for the first year of business) up to 7 weeks now! They simply found better ingredient sources and increased my thermal processing. Science for the win!
Which do you enjoy more, cooking or eating?
Really? Hm. Wow, that is a tough one. Anyone who has ever seen me eat something delicious can attest to my ‘happy food dance’ and loud “mmmmmmm”ing (and this?). I think I’d have to go with eating. I love eating good food. I also love cooking for people.
How do we enjoy your recipes?
To support Kailey, and ensure we can all continue to enjoy NONA in good health, please visit her IndieGoGo Campaign and invest in her vegan products, and in good people doing good things.