Who has time to read food labels? One of the reasons I became a vegetarian is because I got tired and disgusted of reading labels with things I couldn’t even pronounce. Seriously, what the hell is formaldehyde and why would it be okay for me to consume it if it can be used to embalm people? If you have to eat food that comes in a wrapper or packaged, the less ingredients, the better. Just remember, if you can’t read it, don’t eat it.
Ingredients do matter. Plant-based, seasonal and local ingredient meals do a body and the community good. Food With Thought highlights food artisans and specialty food creators who are committed to producing authentic exceptional food that is good for you and produced with the community and environment in mind.
Yai’s Thai produces the very first commercial Thai Salsa. Founders Leland Copenhagen and Sarah Hughes adapted the recipe for Yai’s Thai Salsa from an original family recipe for Thai salmon salad, passed down from Leland’s yai (grandma). They left out the salmon one day and the remaining ingredients resembled salsa, but with a distinctly Thai flavor. So, the idea to name the business Yai’s Thai came about naturally.
What’s unique about Yai’s Thai is that they source their ingredients from fresh produce that would otherwise be discarded in an effort to reduce food waste. They “rescue” produce before it is sent to the landfill. The ingredients are still fresh, but would like be discarded due to being “ugly,” banged up or surplus. Yai’s Thai is environmentally conscious and take their waste reduction seriously. During the cooking process, tomato peels are converted to chips or blended into a sauce; they make veggie stock with scraps and everything else is composted.
An insightful conversation with Leland…
What was life like before Yai’s Thai ?
It was routine. I worked in a neuroscience lab doing addiction research, and I really didn’t like it. Outside of work it was the same as it is now, I get outside as often as possible and I cook as often as possible. When I was working in the neuroscience lab, the more I cooked, the more I realized that is where my passion lies, I love experimenting with new recipes.
Ingredients matter, so what’s in Yai’s Thai Salsa?
It’s all fresh ingredients. Tomatoes that aren’t canned, organic lime juice, Thai chiles, everything on the label is something you can pronounce. There’s a distinct Thai flavor, so it’s a little different that traditional salsa.
What is your food philosophy?
We source as much as we can from food that would be discarded, which is only because they are not “pretty” enough to be on the grocery store shelf. They are perfectly good to eat. For example, we use vine ripe tomatoes, but at the store, if it’s not on the vine, a lot of people won’t buy it. So we work with the distributors for the “ugly ducklings.” Ginger, if there are a couple of spots, we’ll cut off the spots and use the rest that is perfectly good to eat.
We love the environment and our food philosophy stems from that philosophy. With 40% of food going to waste in American, we can’t ignore the waste issues and wear on the environment.
What’s been most surprising in starting your business?
People are willing to help you, for the most part. If you approach them with respect, you find they are not only flattered but responsive to your goal and mission.
Tell me about the process of producing your products locally.
We cook our salsa in a commercial kitchen about 10 minutes away from where we live, we work with local distributors that serve grocery stores in the area and we will be working with local farmers in the Summer to source vegetables that will be discarded.
Any funny kitchen stories?
The first time we tried making Thai hot, it was way too hot and almost made us puke!
What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had?
Definitely shelling lobsters, one summer. Sitting on the dock of the bay – no wait, shelling lobsters!
If you could invite four famous people to dinner, who would you choose and why?
Jerry Garcia. My favorite musician , Janis Joplin and Anthony Bourdain… actually maybe not, he can be kinda pompous.
Describe your own outlook on life in six words.
Put your phone down, go outside .
How can people get a hold of you or order Yai’s Thai?
We will be in stores soon, but you can find us at a local farmer’s market this summer and you can order online at yaisthai.com
See the full video interview with Leland on the Food With Thought YouTube channel, HERE.
If you or someone you know is a vegetarian food artisan or specialty food creator and want to share your story on how and why you source locally and responsibly produce your products email me at email@example.com and find out how you can be a guest on Food With Thought.