In celebration of Black History Month, NYLON is running a spotlight series called UNAPOLOGETIC. Every day, we’ll celebrate different aspects of black culture through profiles, interviews, roundtables, reviews, videos, and op-eds. #Blacklivesmatter and we hold that truth to be self-evident.
They say that the energy of the person making your food passes from their hands into the dish they are preparing. Sara Elise, creator and owner of Harvest and Revel, a catering company that focuses on seasonal spreads, is blessed with a happy brain, which means she goes to bed each night and automatically wakes up happy (a gift of which she is fully aware and grateful for). This also means the joy that she naturally exudes passes into every thing she cooks.
Elise and her culinary partner Ora Wise have a goal of bringing food that is both beautiful and nutritious to ALL communities, starting in their own in Brooklyn, New York. With their focus on creating plant-based food that tastes and makes you feel good, you definitely want her and her team at your next event, bringing your culinary vision to life. If you don't have any upcoming celebrations, you can get a taste of their work via the menu they've created for Cafe Erzulie in Bushwick, which has just soft-launched, and where they will be hosting brunch events this spring.
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Sara Elise and I am the owner of a catering company in Brooklyn called Harvest and Revel, and a freelance wellness coach.
What drew you to cooking originally and how have you branched off from there?
I was originally drawn to cooking as a way to learn how to take care of myself. Once I learned the different ways types of foods affected my moods, emotions and my body I started hosting tasting events, where I would create a seasonally based menu using ingredients from around Brooklyn. People began asking if I could create similar events for their special life experiences, which is basically catering, so I decided to build a company off of it and named it BedStuy Kitchen. I was cooking for BSK and working a full-time job in a different industry, which I eventually was able to leave, and brought my culinary partner, Ora Wise, on to be the kitchen manager and head chef. I wanted focus on business development aspect and the branding, design and client-facing aspects. We rebranded as Harvest and Revel and I now run the business full-time in addition to private chef work, personal meal planning, and cooking for smaller events that we wouldn't be able to cater for Harvest and Revel. They're mostly community-focused, or for friends. I also do freelance wellness coaching which entails working with different people, primarily in our community, on a sliding scale to help them realize they have agency over their lives and begin refocusing their lives in a way that feels good for them, with a tangible plan for them where they'd like to be.
Why are food and a culture of wellness important?
Food and wellness are important because they determine the type of person you are. They determine the way you're going to act/interact with people, and how you interact with people determines the types of opportunities you're afforded. The opportunities you're afforded determine the type of life you end up leading. At the center of all of this is the type of consumption that you have, the foods that you put in your body, how much you take care of yourself, how well you feel. If those things are out of whack then they greatly affect everything else.
What motivated you to begin your journey as an entrepreneur?
I've always had an entrepreneurial mindset and was always “starting businesses” as a kid. My first was making mud pies in frisbees in my backyard. That was also my first baking experience. I was always creating spa businesses where I'd walk around my house with a basket of nail polish and lotion, attempting to charge for massages and manicures, but my family was like "we're not giving you money for you to do this stuff." My dad is an entrepreneur and his passion is starting and running businesses until they get to a certain part and then selling them, so I guess I got that from him. It was a natural progression for me to learn this new skill set, share it with other people, and after seeing that there was a need and desire for what we were offering in the foodservice industry, create a business around it."
What keeps you going?
I feel like when you're an artist, or an entrepreneur, or a self-employed person, everything is intertwined. Running Harvest and Revel and having the ability to focus on something that's challenging at times, and always changing, is really helpful for me because even though I have "happy" brain, I also have "crazy" brain. It's very hard at times to navigate my inner landscape, but knowing that I have this ongoing project that's larger than I am helps me. It's mutually beneficial because now I can focus on creating something positive, and the more I focus on creating something positive, the more the project grows. It's been a really amazing gift to my life.
Where else do you find joy outside of the kitchen?
I find joy anywhere that my fiancé Amber is. She's the shit. Also, with my dogs… traveling…on the beach, anywhere really. Just being near the ocean or hearing the ocean helps to calm my brain for some reason. It sounds corny to say that it reminds that there are so many things that are bigger than I am, but it really does, in a way. You just feel mad small when you're sitting in front of an ocean and feel like "damn, this is insignificant." It put things in perspective. Having that perspective shift always allows me to feel more joy in the moment, and even afterward. It's just like a meditation.
What does community mean to you, and why is it important?
Community is super important to me because it fills in all the gaps where I may be lacking. Whenever I feel vulnerable or insecure about something my community, my tribe really, has been there to fill up those spaces and say, "No, we got you." Having those holes, that grow and develop over time and change with every new opportunity and new situation, filled by love and support, and just feeling held allows me to grow stronger, do more, take greater risks and make myself more vulnerable because I know I have something to fall back on.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
A lot of things that you think matter don't matter at all, so don't base your actions on feelings. Which is counterintuitive to things society tells you like "If you feel that it's right, then do it." I feel like everything is wrong all the time. For me, I have to do everything that I'm nervous about, everything that causes my body to tell me “You’re under attack, leave everything right now." I have to stay. To me five years ago, I would say your brain is trying to sabotage you and all of your feelings and moods are an illusion and you need to move forward and push yourself to move forward even when you feel otherwise.