July 15, 2017
As you may know, I have wanted to start a restaurant for about eight years. Therefore, there is simply no way to hide the fact that the name of this passion project will inevitably stay in my mind forever. If you had the misfortune of being one of my close friends during this naming process, you were probably forced to be the brick wall I threw names at every few days, seeing if one would stick. Ultimately, however, our old name came out of a lengthy family group text.
And yes. Someday, when I open more restaurants and some poor soul has to interview me about how I came up with this name, you all can laugh knowing that my strange, yet very patient family was behind the decision finalized in a group text called “Cheekins 🐓.”
The old name was Mama Sed, and as six kind readers this week alone have pointed out to me, one of my more recent posts references the name as Delinsta. Sadly, both of these names are no longer. I didn’t feel Delinsta was right in my heart, and there is already a foodservice company in town with a name that is too similar to Mama Sed. I understand that this has caused some frustration among people, as it seems you all grew just as close to these names as I had. However, there are times when I don’t get to be the naive, 21 year old opening a restaurant, and I have to be the shrewd business owner who is ensuring this rocket takes off and eventually lands on its feet. (Excuse the metaphor, I just recently saw the movie Hidden Figures, and this is the only one I have decided to leave upon revision.)
The new name is one that tells the best story about my culinary journey. I grew up fascinated by food and the way it affected our bodies, so I began experimenting with different diets. After a few years of saying “no” to a million foods I wanted to eat, I decided to stop dieting, and to start eating whatever I truly wanted to eat (and there was no shortage of food in this category). It wasn’t until about a year later when I had been convinced that eating a whole food, plant based diet was the best for my body, that I decided to give it a try. At this time, I would like to remind you of my unnatural affinity for food, so I can assure you that when I had decided I would be raw vegan for the summer, I was NOT going to be eating salads 24/7. Starting May 8, 2015, I went into the kitchen with a new mindset- “Cook something delicious using only these plant based ingredients.”
For those of you who don’t know my sister, Nikki, let me give you some insight into our relationship. We grew up fighting, about anything and everything. We have endless stories of times where we argued over what Raffi song to fall asleep to in our shared room, whether or not we “had” to listen to our parents, or if we were even blood related at all.
In fact, one of the only things we agreed to do together was watch Chopped, a television show about a cooking competition where contestants must use the ingredients provided in their mystery baskets. So naturally in the spirit of Chopped, I turned going vegan for the summer into a fun challenge to make healthy meals even my meat-eating sister would enjoy.
There is a funny thing that happens when you cook for yourself that I like to call “Maker’s Bias,” aka “I made it, therefore it is good.” To make sure that my newly vegan recipes were actually edible, I would beg my sister to try my creations. (Read: She has plenty of stories to tell you about bell pepper smoothies and veggies gone wrong that she claims support her constant refusals.) But ultimately, I would get her to try my concoctions, and if she liked them, I knew that they might be worth saving for a cookbook, or something spectacular in the future. I was thrilled because I had cracked the bad habit of heavy meat-eating in my life, and doubly thrilled because I was getting my sister to eat a few more greens. Hence the new name, Nikki Green.
My hope for Nikki Green is very similar to that of those months I was cooking vegan food for my sister. This isn’t a vegan restaurant for vegan people (though it does satisfy that storyline as well). Nikki Green is a fast casual restaurant serving delicious, vegetable and smoothie bowls for EVERY person. This is the place where a vegan might take their loved ones to get them to eat a few more veggies in a way where they don’t feel like they’re sacrificing anything. It’s a place where friends will meet up to take pictures of their plant food, just as I did when I began my food journey. But most importantly, it may just be a place where Joe and Sam wander in off the street and decide to eat, because they can feel the love in the space I’ve created. They don’t turn around and leave when looking at the menu, because it looks so good that they don’t even realize there isn’t any meat. They might grab a raw vegan dessert or a smoothie bowl, but when they do, they aren’t thinking about the millions of foods they’re missing out on, as I know I did when I felt like I was dieting. Nikki Green is a place where people like my sister Nikki can eat more greens, and love every minute of it. If you promise to help keep me to my mission, I promise not to feed you any bell pepper smoothies. 🙂