b&b162 DDJA Chris Kim, founder of Monk’s Meats, on balancing a Diet, Business, and Activism
Happy Independence Day, America! What is more American than a new Brunch & Budget episode? Food is definitely one thing that connects us all together, so it only makes sense that we share our interview with Chris Kim, the founder of the “vegan butcher shop” Monk’s Meats.
Starting from his apartment’s kitchen, to selling out at food festivals like Smorgasburg on the weekends. Chris is definitely one of our top favorite DDJA interviews.
(Just in case you forgot what our DDJA episodes are about)
Welcome to the Dead Day Job Army, a monthly Brunch & Budget series where entrepreneurs and freelancers of Color share their stories and talk about the real.
It’s not easy to start your own business and it’s even harder when it feels like you have to explain to your family what you do every time you see them, when you walk into an event and can count on one hand the PoC in the room, when you try to ask for what you’re worth, but don’t want to get passed over for the next person.
We ask folks to leave their shiny pictures and Instagram highlights at the door and tell us what it’s really like to do the work, put in the time, and devote your life to your work.
Music featured in this episode:
–Deadly Cycle by Boss Carrot
–Vegetariano by Cuerpo Manda
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Chris Kim: I’ve been vegetarian for 20 years and my partner has been vegan for about 20 years, actually a little bit longer, so, for us, as a vegetarian, vegan, especially in this city, you spend a lot of time making your own food, and you just become very aware of what you’re eating.
Chris Kim: The year I decided to become a vegetarian I was…consumed with consuming calories and trying to find a healthier lifestyle…I smoked a lot, I drank a lot, I partied a lot, I ate a lot of meat, I felt like crap all the time.
Chris Kim: When I first became a vegetarian I basically had this idea of like eat a lot of pasta and like cheese pizza. I think I lived for close to a year on like a broccoli roll from the pizzeria around the corner from my house basically everyday. It got pretty boring pretty fast.
Chris Kim: How I started as a vegan chef, I guess, was just trying to feed myself.
Chris Kim: People are overly concerned about money and underly concerned about other social issues.
Chris Kim: We’ve gotten a lot of flack over the years about the butcher’s shop moniker. The idea behind it is really that it’s gonna be a place where you, as somebody who’s plant based, who’s vegan or vegetarian, you can go and get your protein, and have somebody who’s knowledgeable about making and supplying protein, just like a butcher.
Chris Kim: There’s more skill and care and effort that goes into it then people assume.
Chris Kim: People think it’s hard to be vegetarian.
Chris Kim: When people sit down to a plate of food, they’re accustomed to a certain way of presenting food, and so when you have your proteins are in beans and in vegetables that are presented as side dishes, then people feel like they’re not getting everything, and so you need like main focui for people to psychologically feel like they’ve gotten a full meal.
Chris Kim: A lot of times when people talk about their favorite dishes and it’s something that’s a chicken or beef or pork or whatever, it’s not even the meat that’s actually what they like or are really attached to, it’s the flavors.
Chris Kim: It started to get a little too real for a side gig.
Chris Kim: The winter of 2010-11 is when we first started doing it and we did it for a year, nights and weekends on the side and then we started to get more serious.
Chris Kim: I sat down and I did the numbers and I realized that we grew our wholesale business like 35% over the winter and our expenses grew 38%, so we were actually making more money and losing more money.
Chris Kim: The first four years we ran on almost zero waste, like 1% waste.
Chris Kim: You can’t treat eating punitively…Food is one of the fundamental pleasures in life.
Chris Kim: For me this was a way to be an activist without preaching to people: to be providing people an option rather than telling them they shouldn’t do something.
Chris Kim: We’re a business so we obviously have to make money, but we are not a business to make money…the money is a way for us to empower our other goals.
Chris Kim: Our primary goal is to make really good food for people to eat, and our secondary gold is to provide a healthy, nutritious alternative and to give people a path to healthy eating, and our third goal is to have happy employees, and our fourth goal is to make money.