Sophia Marie Marchese: Co-Founder, Happy Seed
Why she inspires us: Sophia is bringing delicious, healthy, plant-based eating to plates everywhere with her company, Happy Seed.
As a private chef, Sophia Marie Marchese worked her way through college, writing and prepping plant-based meals for a family in town with very specific dietary needs. What she learned there soon became a new foundation for the way everyone could eat—or at least think about eating—and the basis for her plant-based dining company, Happy Seed.
What is the philosophy behind Happy Seed? It’s the idea that we can all live a perfectly healthy and sustainable lifestyle on a plant-based diet, opening our minds to the vast culinary possibilities that come from cooking with plants only. With every bite, I believe we are all eating toward a healthier and happier future. Our intention is to make a mark in the industry, providing memorable experiences that prove plant-based dining is not just a trend but here to stay.
What is the biggest misconception about plant-based eating? People think that vegans don’t get enough protein. It’s an age-old myth born from the mass marketing of meat and protein powders. The simple truth is that all protein comes from plants. Every animal-based source of protein originally got its protein from eating plants. Plant sources of protein alone can provide enough essential and non-essential amino acids, assuming that one eats a wide variety of nutrient-dense plant-based foods. Eat the rainbow!
What is Happy Seed doing differently from other plant-based food companies?
We do not rely on vegan products to create our dishes. Both my partner and I got certified in plant-based cuisine from Rouxbe Culinary School before we started Happy Seed. It was really important to us that we learn the techniques necessary to showcase just how magical plants can be in the kitchen. It’s important to us, to this day, that our menu does not lean into products and instead challenges us to stay innovating in the kitchen. For example, I like to think we have the best vegan Queso Blanco I’ve ever had, and I make it 100% from scratch before every service.
What’s been the most surprising thing to learn through the Happy Seed journey?
The best way to convince someone to eat more plant-based isn’t by spewing a bunch of facts at them; it’s by creating memorable, unbelievably vegan dishes that keep them coming back for more. Food speaks the loudest, and the fastest way to the heart is through the stomach.
How are you working to help others in the community? We are building an initiative to partner with school garden programs and organizations such as the Edible Schoolyard Project, which is dedicated to transforming the health of children by designing hands-on educational experiences in the garden, kitchen and cafeteria. I believe it’s important to give back in ways that invest in future generations and connect our youth with nature and our food systems.
What is your favorite dish right now?
My favorite dish right now is our Mole Enchiladas, filled with carnitas made from king oyster mushrooms and topped with a 30-ingredient mole sauce and our house-made cashew sour cream.
Name some innovators that you are inspired by – feel free to name celebrities or friends and family.
My business partner (and fiancé!) Reid Trapani, who conceptualizes all of Happy Seed’s menu offerings. He has developed all of our meat and dairy alternatives, combining his experience and plant-based culinary innovation to create items that are unbelievably vegan. Not only is he a great chef, but he always reminds me to keep a grateful and positive mentality – a great partner in business and in life!
Three women come to mind when I think of entrepreneurs I look up to who are doing really meaningful work for our city. Slutty Vegan CEO Pinky Cole is a true pioneer of plant-based eating here in Atlanta and does so much to give back. Elsie Brotherton, owner of Highland Yoga, continues to build connections through her yoga community and has managed to do so even through the inevitable pivots produced by the pandemic. And finally Marcela Vega, executive chef at 8arm and founder of Chicomecóatl, who creates beautiful, intentional dishes that celebrate local ingredients and pay homage to her roots.
What are your top 5 produce products to cook with and why?
Mushrooms because they are packed with nutrients and their texture works really well for meat substitution. Raw nuts because they make excellent dairy alternatives. Garlic because… garlic! Carrots for their flavor profile. They make sauces richer and fresh juices sweeter and give everything a mega boost of antioxidants. Finally, Kale because it’s among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s a leafy green AND a crucifer (broccoli family) and extremely versatile.