Alak Vasa: Reorienting Our Relationships With Food
Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your one and only interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to be talking to Alak Vasa, the co-founder and chef at Elements Truffles. Alak is an inspiring entrepreneur working on SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being with the aim of bringing a better awareness about our relationships with food. Let’s see how she’s doing it!
Spiffy: Welcome to my blog, Alak! I’m excited to hear about your work with Elements Truffles. What challenge are you addressing?
Alak: Thanks, Spiffy! It’s so great to be here. At Elements Truffles, our goal is to bring awareness to the relationship we have with our food. Oftentimes, there is a sense of guilt associated with being able to truly enjoy food we love. And many a time, we are shocked to see the long ingredient list of simple everyday food, such as bread. This has resulted in us having a very complex relationship with food, which is the primary source of our physical and mental nourishment. With recipes rooted in the ancient science of Ayurveda, made with clean, simple, and ethically sourced ingredients, our nourishing chocolates not only taste good, but do good to the mind, body, and the community.
Spiffy: That’s quite the endeavour! What motivated you to do it?
Alak: Growing up in India, ayurveda was effortlessly a part of my daily life. But I never appreciated it. It was only after coming to the US and having some health issues that I started taking a closer look at my food. As I became more aware of the food choices I was making, I realized I was bringing back a lot of elements of ayurveda back in my life. Ayurveda was not just the science to cure sickness. It was a lifestyle that enabled a beautiful relationship with food. And I had to share this secret with the world.
Spiffy: This ties in nicely with my next question. How is Elements Truffles working towards a more equitable world?
Alak: Our single-origin cacao comes from small and mid-size family-owned farms and co-ops in Ecuador. Usually, cacao is traded through commodities exchanges, offering the farmers a ‘haircut’ on the international prices. Since we completely avoid middlemen, we manage to pay a stable price that is far above the commodity exchange. It leaves us with happy farmers, integrous produce, and a lot of heart in the entire supply chain.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent company milestone or initiative and the impact that it makes.
Alak: We were awarded the Community Impact Award by the NY NOW digital market in 2020 for our #BeMyQuarantine campaign. During the pandemic, we worked with more than 25 small businesses to come together and encourage customers to buy directly from the participating brands. Each brand offered a 20% discount. And for every purchase made, the brand in turn donated a product to the healthcare heroes in their neighborhood. We managed to donate products worth approximately $20,000 to healthcare centers across the country.
Spiffy: That’s fantastic! Before I let you go, please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Alak: The pandemic! Suddenly, mid-March, the entire nation was under lockdown. Our long list of more than 3000 wholesale customers dropped down to a few 100. We had a team of employees that relied on us. We did not know how long this situation would last. The first decision we made as a company was to not let go of any of our employees. And once that was decided, we put our creative heads together and put all our energy on growing our online business. This pivot helped us navigate through this uncertain time.
Spiffy: I wish you and Elements Truffles all the best going forward, Alak! Thanks for speaking to me today, it’s been an honor.
Alak Vasa, co-founder of Elements Truffles, worked on Wall Street for over a decade as an algorithmic trader at Goldman Sachs and ITG. Alak calls herself an ‘approximate chef’ - as she is adept at whipping up the most well balanced yummy meals and desert on the fly. She loves to cook and bake for everyone. Her secret ingredient - love. Alak is a mediation and wellness instructor and is passionate about teaching breathwork and meditation. (First published on the Ladderworks website on January 5, 2022)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.