Not so long ago, those who chose not to eat meat tended to be greeted with bemused surprise when discussing their dietary preferences.
That does still happen today. Upon mention of a vegetarian diet, or anything resembling such, the likely response is often, “but whatever you like, that’s OK!”
The thinking of Cecil Township residents and restaurateurs José and Katy Rosa definitely is along those lines.
“We want to help educate, help shift perspectives,” Katy said, “but without doing it in a forceful or pushy kind of way, whatsoever.”
The Rosas’ restaurant business, Everest Eats, actually is a delivery service featuring food of Katy’s creativity and preparation, every last morsel of it plant-based. That means exactly what you’d think: no meat, no dairy, none of anything that comes from animals.
While the Rosas always had been nutrition-conscious, with Katy earning an associate degree in the subject and José playing collegiate baseball, neither had grown up with any compunctions about an omnivorous diet.
Then Katy decided to enter a new field of study for her bachelor’s degree.
“It was then, my very first class in environmental science, that I realized the absolute destruction that animal agriculture was posing to the environment,” she recalled. “And told myself, I can’t eat meat anymore.”
José decided to join her, and before too long, Katy’s cooking had taken the leap from meatless to plant-based. That was fine with everyone involved, except for one complication.
“We had just bought five pounds of cheese,” José said, and as cheese lovers, they weren’t about to let it go to waste.
“We made this big pizza with all this cheese, stacked high, and I ate it. And that night was the first time that I truly felt different.
I felt sick,” he recalled. “One thing I tell everyone now is, you never know what one way feels like unless you’ve given yourself the opportunity to feel another way.”
The experience prompted the couple to go fully plant-based. Katy started coming up with new recipes, and they’d serve the creations to eminently grateful friends and family members.
“We just kept being hounded: When are you going to start selling your food?” Katy said.
A downturn in the oil and gas industry, in which the Rosas had forged careers, helped answer the question for them. They both lost their jobs, and the silver lining was the launch of Everest Eats, named at José’s suggestion after their toddler son.
By the way, they have added a daughter, Denali, to the family while embarking on their distinctive variety of culinary entrepreneurship.
“We want food to be based on three things: Is it flavorful? Is it nutrient-dense, and what is it doing to my body? And does it make me feel good?” José said. “If you can hit those three things, you have some fine cuisine that tastes good, makes you feel good and gives you the energy you need to keep moving your body forward in a positive direction.”
To complement their preparation-and-delivery business, the Rosas embarked on a new avenue with a “Sip and Sizzle” event in November. With her mostly virtual audience, Katy shared a demonstration of how to make “Fibs,” a completely plant-based dish that goes a long way toward matching the look, flavor and consistency of barbecued short ribs.
Sara Smith, who was among the handful of guests invited to the Rosas’ house for the event, said she could have been fooled if she didn’t know better.
“Jackfruit is really versatile, and she does wonderful things with it,” she said, referencing one of the primary ingredients, along with seitan, which is made from gluten.
She has been a loyal Everest Eats customer.
“I order every week or every other week, and I absolutely love it,” Smith said. “They’ve been so communicative as a business, and they’re so willing to take suggestions and incorporate ideas into the business, which is fantastic.”
Another fan is Amy Bruckner of South Strabane Township, a lifelong friend of Katy whose children all are ages 5 and younger.
“My family and I actually are not vegan, but I try to eat as healthy as possible and know the benefits of a plant-based diet,” she said. “To be totally honest, I actually work full-time, and with my four kids, I don’t have time to prepare meals. So having them dropped off to me, ready to go and my whole family eating it, is a huge blessing.”
While folks like Sara and Amy continue to enjoy a meaty dish when they’re not ordering from Everest Eats, that’s fine with the Rosas.
“It’s no longer, ‘You eat meat. I don’t. You’re the enemy. I’m not. My belief is better than yours,’” José said. “Let’s just all sit down, have a roundtable conversation, and let’s eat.”