With the help of her aunt and childhood friend Steinhardt graduate school project Ashley See has become a business that supports immigrant chefs by helping their sauces enter the national market.
Anyone who has tried their hand at cooking knows that sauce is the most difficult part of cooking. Too much salt, too little garlic – this is a complex but sacred element that creates the identity of the cuisine of a culture.
Ashley Xie, a graduate of NYU Steinhardt, understands this struggle and wants to use her passion for Chinese cuisine to help both home cooks and professional chefs improve their dishes. In her experience, sauces are something immigrant chefs in the United States want to share with a wider audience, but most of them are so busy creating recipes and running their businesses that they don’t know where to start. That’s where Rooted FareXie’s case is coming.
Rooted Fare collaborates with immigrant chefs across the country who want to sell to a larger market to put their sauces in stores. The chefs share their recipes with Rooted Fare, which then engages in marketing and production. Finally, the company is working with stores to sell sauces online and on shelves. Rooted Fare shares profits with chefs and brings them more visibility.
“Chefs don’t have time to learn how to sell their sauces,” said Xie, who graduated in 2020 with a master’s degree in food research. “We’ve found that they prefer a hands-free approach, so we do all this work faster.”
Originally Xie came up with the idea of Rooted Fare in the food business class in her final year of graduate school. She worked on it as a class project, and when the end of the semester came, the professor told her to continue.
Xie’s first initiative was a partnership with a Nigerian chef. Her friend was having a party at the end of the year that Xie thought was the perfect place to test her idea. She worked on making and bottling the sauce with the chef and brought it to sell at the party. It sold incredibly well, and she and the chef profited from the experiment.
“I thought, ‘Okay, this idea has legs,'” Xie said.
Because of COVID-19, Xie returned to her home in the San Gabriel Valley in southern California, so could not continue working with a Nigerian chef. However, she continued to work on her business and found the following opportunity near home: her aunt, Wenling Peng, and her aunt’s noodle shop, Noodle shop for cups in Rancom Cucamonga, California.
Peng worked for many years at his sister’s restaurant after immigrating to the United States in 1999 from Chongqing, a major city in Sichuan’s Chinese province. After working in her sister’s restaurant for many years, she decided to open her own restaurant. Peng was thrilled to work with Xie on getting her product to the store.
Xie and Peng worked together to develop Chinese sauces such as roasted peanut sauce and crispy black sesame oil. Banks can be found in stores across California, from Auckland to Palm Springs, as well as in some specialty stores nationwide and in the online store Rooted Fare. On the lunar New Year this year two created a do-it-yourself kit. for buyers to make black sesame Tang Yuan, sweet sticky rice balls filled with smooth black sesame. It is a traditional Chinese dish served during the lunar New Year celebrations, and something that Peng’s mother was famous for in Chongqing.
Chinese culture has been a key aspect of Xie’s upbringing. She remembers going to a Chinese school every day after school and hating it. However, since then she has become more appreciative of her childhood experience.
“The Chinese school is a common Chinese American thing for many second-generation people,” Xie said. “The only way to really talk to my parents was to go to a Chinese school and learn the language.”
In 2020, Xie resumed communication with one of her old classmates at a Chinese school, Hedi Yu. When they caught up, Xie felt the opportunity.
“I asked her directly, ‘Do you want to work on this with me?'” Xie said. “And she said so.”
Together they applied to NYU $ 300 thousand Challenge, an entrepreneurial competition held by the New York Institute of Entrepreneurship. New York University students, faculty, and alumni contribute their business ideas and undergo intensive workshops to try to bring them to life. At the end of a grueling eight-month process, teams of finalists present their reworked ideas for launch in hopes of winning a total of $ 300,000 in prize money.
“It made us push back a little bit,” Xie said. “There were a couple of times when I wanted to give up. But Hedy was always there to support me, and it was through that process that I realized she would be a great co-founder. ”
Yu was happy to take on the role. The two childhood friends are now roommates, working together to expand the business from their California apartment.
Rooted Fare is unique in its personal meaning. Because of the Chinese school, Xie said, both she and Yu can speak to Chinese immigrant chefs in a language they are comfortable with.
“We have to deliver [our chefs] at the forefront, ”Xie said. “So this is their story on the cans, not ours.”
Rooted Fare makes it easy for immigrant chefs to share their sauces with shoppers across the country. Xie’s friendly attitude and zeal helps them taste their sauces and hear their stories.
Contact Jules Roscoe at [email protected]