It isn’t often that my work and private lives intersect, but I’m always happy when they do. During the day, I work with venture capital firms and the entrepreneurs that they invest in to help them tell their stories. I love a good story, and the startup ecosystem is full of them, from big dramatic story arcs to my favorite kind of story: the little-known entrepreneur with a clear idea and a passion for making it a reality.
Yesterday, I visited Elsa Cisneros and Cristina Gonzalez, the founders of DailyGreenz, etc., in the sunny, spacious kitchen where they work in Santa Barbara. In business for nine months, they sell salads, wraps and other healthy lunch treats to local businesses. Their food is locally-sourced, their approach is sustainable, and their clientele is loyal and growing.
Both are food industry veterans with culinary degrees and broad experience, including corporate catering organizations. Cristina cut her teeth cooking in popular Wolfgang Puck and Reed Hearon establishments in San Francisco. Elsa added to her resume by completing the 14-week Self-Employment Training Course offered by Women’s Economic Ventures, a local, 21-year-old organization that describes its mission this way: “…to create an equitable and just society through the economic empowerment of women.”
While Cristina made salads and wraps for me to taste, Elsa told me about their vision for continuing to expand the currently boot-strapped business, including looking for a store-front to introduce more people to their fresh, thoughtfully-constructed dishes. Down the road, they would like to develop an internship program for students, who are interested in gaining real-world experience as they attend school. The women also told me that they’d like to develop a program to help women in at-risk situations learn the skills they can use to find meaningful work in the culinary world. That kind of passion is infectious.
I watched Cristina make the Flank Steak Wrap, a straightforward name for a wrap that was anything but. The grainy flatbread, sourced from a bakery in Los Angeles, is spread with Cristina’s roasted garlic aioli. The dreamy green spread gets extra flavor from spring onions and tarragon. Marinated, strips of grilled flank steak — from Rancho San Julian, a 175-year-old Santa Barbara County ranch known as much for its extraordinary beef as it is for its storied history — were laid on top of the aioli.
Sliced roasted portobello mushrooms and red peppers and grilled red onions were draped across the beef, layering on the flavor and vibrant color. Organic arugula, Cristina’s kick-in-the-pants cilantro pesto, and a big crumble of goat cheese followed before the wrap was folded and cut in half.
It’s served with a side of a greens and a perfectly-seasoned red-wine vinaigrette. The wrap showcased big, bold flavors and was a striking from the bright colors of those local Farmers Market vegetables.
Elsa and Cristina also sent me on my way with a box of their Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Salad. Thin slices of the marinated, organic chicken, taste both lemony and minty and top a generous mix of soft butter lettuce, tapioca noodles, crunchy napa cabbage, sprouts, sliced carrots, green onions and cucumbers. Fresh aromatic Thai basil, with its purple and green leaves, is scattered on top along with fresh mint and cilantro leaves and chopped peanuts. It comes together with a peppy serrano chili and lime dressing and includes a container of Cristina’s special peanut sauce for a sweet and nutty drizzle of extra flavor.
I’m already angling for an invitation back so I can try the Big Everything Cookies. Cristina let slip that they contain two types of dark chocolate. I’ll report back.