Episode 26: Danielle Ricciardi and Daniel Strong

“It’s a little sad or embarrassing that the vegans have to rely on the veggie burger. [But] on the other hand, if we’re going to change as a culture, we need to change around that. Like, that’s where our cuisine starts.”

Alicia talks with and Danielle Ricciardi and Daniel Strong, a couple who founded the vegan comfort food business Chickpea and Olive. They discuss the process of getting products into Whole Foods, how delivery apps can financially undercut restaurants, and the concept of “making a burger out of all the things that cows eat.”

Written and presented by Alicia Kennedy
Produced by 
Sareen Patel


ALICIA KENNEDY: This is Meatless, a podcast about eating from How We Get To Next. I’m Alicia Kennedy, a food and drink writer. I’ll be having conversations with chefs, writers, and more about how their personal and political beliefs determine whether or not they eat meat. The show asks the question, “How do identity, culture, economics, and history affect a diet?”

In this episode, I talk to Danielle Ricciardi and Daniel Strong, the couple behind Brooklyn’s beloved vegan burger shop, Chickpea and Olive. Since 2012, from Smorgasburg to Whole Foods, they’ve been serving really decadent, well-made comfort food, like their “Phatty Beet Burger.” We discuss how they went from working in traditional restaurants to starting their own business, the new generation of tech burgers, and how they’ve stayed innovative in an ever-crowding field.


ALICIA KENNEDY: Thank you so much for being here, Danielle and Daniel.

DANIEL STRONG: Thanks for having us.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Can you each tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?

DANIEL STRONG: OK, so I grew up in the West Village in New York City. My parents didn’t really cook. My mom made spaghetti and turkey meatballs mostly, if she did cook, but mostly grew up on takeout Chinese food and pizza from Arturo’s.

ALICIA KENNEDY: This is, this is the New York answer for everyone, every New York native says this.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, makes sense.


DANIEL STRONG: We luck out on the pizza game.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh for sure, yeah.

DANIEL STRONG: We really do.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: And I grew up in Westchester, New York, and grew up on like a standard Italian-American diet, lots of pasta and my mom cooking every night, and we had a fair amount of pizza as well.


ALICIA KENNEDY: I think you once told me you remember vividly your last meat meal.


ALICIA KENNEDY: What was it?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It was chicken cutlet parmesan that my mom made, and I, I’ve recreated it, the vegan version of it, but I’ll never forget that.

ALICIA KENNEDY: What cheese do you use?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: When we, when we make chicken cutlet? We’ve been using the Violife mozzarella.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, the Violife mozarellas.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, and sometimes if we can’t find that, we’ll use the Follow Your Heart.

DANIEL STRONG: The Miyoko’s is pretty good for that too, actually, the parmesans.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, the Miyoko’s is nice.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, the Numu has been the talk of the town lately, I don’t, have you guys tried it?

DANIEL STRONG: I’ve had it.


DANIEL STRONG: I’ve had it somewhere, it was like at the beginning, I think it was like right when they launched and there was a pizzeria around the block from us that was using it, and I just didn’t think it had a whole lot of flavor, but now people are crazy about it, so I should give it another try.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, I’ve had it at a couple of places and I’m still not crazy about it, but I shouldn’t say that.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Sorry, not to your discredit, folks.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, no, I mean, it needs more bite. Have you guys gone to Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop yet?



ALICIA KENNEDY: OK, yeah, yeah, yeah. I need to go again, but I gave them a lot of time and then I went and I was like, “Still, something, there’s just something that’s missing,” and I just, I miss New York pizza so bad and I just want it again, and so I’m hoping it’s coming.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Fingers crossed.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yes. So how did each of you end up working in food?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Well, for me it was survival. I started when I was 18, no, 19, as a host, and then was going to college and just trying to make ends meet and then eventually fell in love with the industry. And I’ve always loved food and, yeah, I just worked my way through the restaurant industry.

DANIEL STRONG: And I took three years flunking out of liberals arts school, which is a really long time to flunk out of liberal arts school, it’s really expensive, and then needed a job. And I started cleaning the floors at a restaurant around the block from where my parents grew up and that slowly turned into cutting French fries and gutting calamari and cleaning mackerel and, before I knew it, I really liked it. It stuck.

ALICIA KENNEDY: And you guys both met while working at the same restaurant, right?



ALICIA KENNEDY: Can you tell me about that?

DANIEL STRONG: How did that go?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Well, we were both working at Dell’anima in the West Village, which recently closed.

DANIEL STRONG: And reopened, actually.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: At the same time, in a food hall, but, yeah, I was working as a server and bartender and Dan was the sous chef.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: And then there were a lot of, like, late nights at the Corner Bistro that turned into, like, an eight-year relationship.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah. Pints of McSorley’s and Sam Cooke…


ALICIA KENNEDY: That’s what did it.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: …and stumbling over people’s bar stools, other people.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Then when did you, you went vegan for Danielle?

DANIEL STRONG: Sort of? When we first started dating I used to go over to her house with a picnic and throw nickels at her window to let me in, because I wasn’t initially sure which apartment number she was in, and I just kind of liked it, and the more, the more I hung out with her, the better I felt. Before I knew it, I was doing it all the time and then I was, Danielle at the time was reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and crying her, crying on the subway on our way home from work, and so I read it too and then I started crying on the subway on my way home from work, and then I, yeah, I was just into it.

ALICIA KENNEDY: But what made you go vegan initially, and how old were you?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Well, I was 25 and I was working. I had been vegetarian prior for quite a while, and I was one of those vegetarians that was like, “I could never give up cheese, I could never do it.” Then I started working in a vegan restaurant and just learning more about vegan cooking and vegetables, really, and I read Skinny Bitch and I was like, “I can’t participate in this any more,” like, you know, yeah. So that’s, that’s kind of what did it for me.

ALICIA KENNEDY: What made you go vegetarian in the first place?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Well, I was a big hippy and was, I don’t know if it was at a, yeah, it was at a show, I guess, and I picked up like a pamphlet and it was, you know, some PETA pamphlet that just really shocked me and I was like, “I don’t, I don’t want to do this.” And that was really hard for my family too, because when I went vegetarian I was the first vegetarian in my family and my mom had no idea how to feed me, you know. She was like, “What do I give you?” So, at first, I guess I went pescatarian and then when I moved to college I went vegetarian.

ALICIA KENNEDY: And are you still the only non-meat-eater in your family?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: No, I’m really proud to say that there are five vegans in my immediate family now.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh wow. Out of how many, because that’s a lot to have in an immediate family?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, well, I have three siblings and then a niece and nephew, which are like the equivalent of siblings, too, because they’re, I’m the youngest by far in my family, so they’re more like a brother and sister to me. So, it’s my sister, Laura, her partner, Moira, my niece and my nephew.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh, that’s amazing.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, so when we have holidays it’s nice, because we’ll convince the rest of my family, “We’re doing a vegan Christmas,” or, yeah.

ALICIA KENNEDY: That’s amazing. Daniel, how did your family react to your going vegan?

DANIEL STRONG: Well, my dad had passed away, so I guess he didn’t give a shit, but, my mom, my mom didn’t really care either. She was mostly vegetarian, mostly, except holidays and turkey meatballs and mussels, but, which, all of which I think she still eats, but she’s always mostly been vegetarian. So it wasn’t really a change for her and, like I said, she never cooked anyway.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, right, right, so it’s much less of a big stretch. So, what made you guys start Chickpea and Olive? In 2012, it was?



ALICIA KENNEDY: It’s going strong.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah. Kitchens are a miserable place to work, and it was wearing on me. I wanted, I personally wanted to be able to like move up in the restaurant that I was in, but I’d hit the ceiling. My bosses knew that, everybody seemed to know that I wasn’t going to go any higher. I got in trouble a couple of times, and then I told Danielle I was just done with it and I needed to quit.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It was also hard for you too, because you were vegan and you were having to taste the food and then you were, like, spitting it out.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Because he was the grill cook, so he was, like, cooking the chicken and the branzino and whatever else was on the menu at the time.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, I did a lot of, like, and I was running the line a lot at nights, so I had to taste everybody else’s food, not just my own. There was a lot of chewing things and spitting and saying, “No, really, it’s good.” So, yeah, I just, I needed a fresh start and so I told Danielle I needed to get out of there and she was incredibly supportive, for I’m not sure what reason, and we set out on putting some ideas together.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, and we had just really started dating, so it all kind of just happened all at once. I guess you left in…

DANIEL STRONG: I left in 2012.


DANIEL STRONG: May, I think.



DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, so Dan left in July of 2011, and we were like, “We’re going to start this business,” and we were originally going to do like a, like a vegan version of Dell’anima, like, “We’ll do Italian comfort food, it’ll be great,” you know, like rustic Italian.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, handmade pastas.


DANIEL STRONG: Those didn’t work out so well.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: And then we were really trying to just hustle, and I was still working full-time at the restaurant and, you know, we were just grasping at any opportunity that came our way. Then we found Smorgasburg in the spring of 2012. So, that’s really when everything started happening.

DANIEL STRONG: Of course, by the time we’d done that we’d already incorporated, so we had a name, Chickpea and Olive, and we took our tour of Smorgasburg and both acknowledged, “There’s no veggie burger here,” and let’s, let’s, you know, take advantage of that. So, there’s no chickpeas or olives in any of our food.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Which is so confusing to everyone.

DANIEL STRONG: People actually come up and say, “Can I have the chickpea?”

ALICIA KENNEDY: So, tell me about the development of your veggie burger.

DANIEL STRONG: Development of the veggie burger. So, I think it came down to two things. Danielle had Post Punk Kitchen in the house, and they had a beet burger recipe in there. She recommended it, so we tried that. It was really good. And then I saw a video, I don’t remember who it was.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I don’t know if that’s true.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I didn’t know about the Post Punk Kitchen cookbook.

DANIEL STRONG: We definitely tested the recipe.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Do they have a beet burger recipe?

DANIEL STRONG: I’m pretty sure. Was it in a different book?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Because it was, I remember, it was a different book.

DANIEL STRONG: Was it a different book?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It was like The Veggie Burger Book or something that we had.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I think it’s Colleen something?

DANIEL STRONG: Veggie Burger Girl?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, something like that, and they had a beet burger recipe.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, I feel like, yeah…

DANIEL STRONG: You might be right, OK.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Beet burgers are, like, Post Punk Kitchen would be too, like…

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It’s too early. It’s too early for beet burgers.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. If anything, it would be like Veganomicon or something, but I don’t think they had that one. But we have all those cookbooks and love them, by the way, but I think it was like Veggie Burgers Around the World or something like that, and we tried the beet burger.

DANIEL STRONG: It was good.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It was good, yeah. It was really good.

DANIEL STRONG: It was very good, and then I remember seeing this video and it was this restaurant, I want to say it was in Chicago, and they were doing two things. They were doing watermelon sashimi, and they, in which they like sous vide a watermelon in some kind of brine and then used it as tuna, and then they were doing, they were doing a beet burger and it was like beets and corn and three other ingredients. It was super simple and their selling point was that it was a burger made out of all of the things that cows eat.


DANIEL STRONG: And I thought that was so cool, I wonder if we could do a simple burger, just make it look as much like a hamburger as possible and trick people.


DANIEL STRONG: And the word beet is great for that, because it looks like beef.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, people still, they’re like, “Can we get the beef burger?” I’m like, “It’s a beet burger.” Like, “Yeah, beef.” “No, beet.”

DANIEL STRONG: People have gotten really mad about that.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Do you think it’s important, like, the veggie burger looking like beef? Is that significant?

DANIEL STRONG: Now, now I don’t know. At the time it felt important. It felt like, I really, when we started, it felt important to try to like play a trick on people, to, like, take advantage of what they saw and, like, I don’t know, like, what they saw was not what they were going to eat. So there’d be some kind of surprise element.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: And also, like, at that time, when we were starting, “vegan” was a very scary word. People really had very strong reactions to us at Smorgasburg, and, you know, plus, for the longest time, when we started, we had no money, so we had like a banner that I made, you know…

DANIEL STRONG: Was a scrap…

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: …with scrap, scrap fabric and it just said, “vegan sliders” in, like, plaid, cut out, you know.

DANIEL STRONG: No name or anything.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, not even “chickpea,” just “vegan sliders,” and people were like, you know, I really had to use my selling techniques to convince them to try it. Like, I would dare them, I’d be like, “If you don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back, come on, just try it, just try it.”

DANIEL STRONG: “I dare you not to like it.”

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: So, I do think in the beginning it was important that it looked like something familiar to them, like, if it was a green veggie burger, they would have been like, “No way,” you know?

DANIEL STRONG: But now, yeah, I bet you can make like an asparagus burger and no one would bat an eye.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Right. I don’t know, asparagus.

ALICIA KENNEDY: I think actually I want to try that, I want to eat that, an asparagus burger.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We’re going to make you one.

ALICIA KENNEDY: So, since 2012 you’ve expanded your menu, you’re now doing these incredible tofu sandwiches that I’m obsessed with, but how also has, like, the reaction changed?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Oh, it’s so interesting to watch. Yeah, so when we started we were the, I mean, to my knowledge we were the first in New York doing what we were doing, which was showcasing vegetables and, like, creating comfort food out of vegetables. We weren’t using packaged products, we were making everything from scratch, from the bread to the ketchup to everything.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, we used to make the goddamn buns.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, and Dan is not a baker, so that was incredible. But the bread was really good, it just was inconsistent, you know, it would be very fluffy one week and then very flat the next.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: So, at first, you know, yeah, we really had to sell ourselves and convince people to try our food and, you know, that started to build up a little following and make a little name for ourselves. And then, now, you know, I don’t know if vegan is such a sexy word, but “plant-based” everything? Everybody, “Oh, plant-based, oh.” We feed people that are, you know, ten years ago I’d be like, “They’re never going to get a sandwich from us,” and now I’m like, “Whoa, that’s so cool.” They’re really excited about it and they really want to try it and so that’s really exciting to see.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, our bookkeeper the other day was telling us, he owns a pizzeria in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and he’s got a, he’s got a vegan pizza on his menu, and he says that, like, people in camo and MAGA hats come up to his stand and order vegan slices.

ALICIA KENNEDY: That’s incredible.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: That is incredible. Yeah, he told us that yesterday, I couldn’t believe it.

DANIEL STRONG: Very surprised.

ALICIA KENNEDY: That combination of things is funny. I mean, no, the combination of being a bookkeeper who also has a pizzeria in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It’s like, yeah. So, you’ve been at Smorgasburg since you started and you continue to be at Smorgasburg. You’ve also expanded into Whole Foods, Williamsburg. How do you structure your time, your business, like, how does it all work?

DANIEL STRONG: I think, I mean, I think we just do everything we have to do. I don’t know how much structure there is to it.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We work all the time.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, I mean, you know, I try to make sure that our orders are placed two or three days in advance and then, if I forgot something, I try not to panic. I’m still doing 90 percent of our prep work, working the line, and, yeah, there’s really no getting out from the bottom. If you, if you start at the foundation, then you really end up building the whole house on top of yourself.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, so you prep in Queens still?

DANIEL STRONG: Some of it, yeah. Some of it we prep in Long Island City and some of it we prep at Whole Foods.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, and so how has, has working at Whole Foods kind of changed, has it changed your menu, has it changed anything?

DANIEL STRONG: It’s created opportunities for a lot of things we were unable to do before. For starters, we’ve got a deep fryer and we have taken as much advantage of that as possible. I think we have really good French fries, and I feel like, as a burger spot, that was, like, something we were really missing was French fries and now I feel like we can take ourselves seriously, because we have French fries.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We’re talking about adding ketchup.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, we were debating ketchup. Ketchup is on the table. We’re probably going to do a tasting next week.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: You can totally come.


ALICIA KENNEDY: I love house-made ketchups.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: They’re the best.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Like, people get all upset there’s like, “We just have Heinz, we don’t need any fancy,” I’m like, “No, why, why do you just need Heinz?”

DANIEL STRONG: I feel like I’m one of those people. I’m a smooth ketchup fascist.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: But the ketchup you were making was so good. We had a habanero ketchup for a while.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, back in the day we used to make our own habanero ketchup.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It was really good.

DANIEL STRONG: In our apartment. Those were the good old days.

ALICIA KENNEDY: But also, you guys are on the delivery services, and I wanted to ask you how that impacts your business, because, yeah, as I said, we were too far away from Whole Foods, Williamsburg to get it from Seamless, so then Caviar is like, this, it’s so expensive. As a food writer, we talk about this, it’s like how this affects small businesses, like, the charges and everything and it’s pretty huge. So yeah, so how did you guys make the decision to go onto those services and how has it affected the business?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I felt like it was a necessary evil.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: To start to bring in more income.

DANIEL STRONG: Well, not even more income, just more customers.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Well, more customers and just, you know, generate a little more revenue, even though the fees are, like, out of control.

DANIEL STRONG: Basically, there’s no profit on delivery sales, you know, because that portion of your sale goes towards paying for everything that’s called the fee when you get your bill from the customer.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It’s, we don’t ever really order delivery, so I didn’t realize that there’s like a fee on top of, you know, because they’re charging us, like, 30 percent of the order. Like, that’s their cut, and then they’re charging the customer on top of that and then, of course, you tip your driver and, like, all the things. It’s crazy how expensive it is.

It’s super frustrating to us too, because, you know, as a small business, our reputation, it’s like everything. We’ve worked so hard to maintain our reputation, and on Grubhub and Seamless, the majority of the negative reviews, like, obviously, we’re not perfect and our staff will make a mistake or whatever, but the majority of the negative reviews are from their drivers, and, or the food taking forever or whatever it is, and it’s like, that hurts, that really hurts. It’s like, I think our rating right now on Grubhub and Seamless is like four stars or whatever, and I go on and I read the reviews, I’m like, “Oh my god, this is so bad.”

DANIEL STRONG: “Cold food, two-hour wait.”


DANIEL STRONG: How is that possible? It takes five minutes to make a veggie burger. It doesn’t make sense.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, and, you know, it’s hard, but I think we need it for the time being.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah. We’re going to get bicycles and I’m just going to do all the deliveries.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Dan’s going to make all the food and deliver it.

DANIEL STRONG: I’ve been practicing, at the gym.


ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. So, veggie burgers are kind a cultural obsession, because burgers are so ingrained in American culture. And why do you think people, like, why is the veggie burger such a focal point of both obsession and controversy, especially now that Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat burgers are everywhere and then, I mean, they’re essentially the same old burger that we used to eat in the 90s but just, like, a little bit more, like, I don’t know, like they have the heme, so.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I always joke that our burgers have been bleeding since 2012, you know, because beets bleed, you know. That gets all over you.


DANIELLE RICCIARDI: And we didn’t spend a billion dollars developing that.

DANIEL STRONG: We’ve got the stains to prove it. Yeah, I feel like, I don’t know, on the one hand it’s, I guess it’s a little sad or embarrassing that, as foodies, the vegans have to rely on the veggie burger. On the other hand, it’s everybody else’s fault. It’s McDonalds’ fault, you know? I mean, the hamburger’s been an American obsession since 1963 or whatever, and, if we’re going to change as a culture, we need to change around that. I mean, it’s, I feel like it’s a societal, cultural duty, like, that’s where, where our cuisine starts.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: American cuisine?



ALICIA KENNEDY: It’s true. Do you think that, I mean, you alluded to this before, but like, are veggie burgers becoming more interesting on a whole, do you think, or no? Do you think that the beet burger is kind of like the best that could happen in terms of, like…?

DANIEL STRONG: I mean I, that’s a hard question. I don’t think that the beet burger is the apex of the…

ALICIA KENNEDY: The veggie burger?

DANIEL STRONG: The veggie burger. I think it happens to be cool, and I hope it remains cool until we decide to stop doing it. And maybe that’ll make it cool again.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Had you been working on a gluten burger?


DANIEL STRONG: We have been. We’re on a brief break from it, but we’ll go back to the laboratory. We got, I think we got pretty close.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We got very close.

DANIEL STRONG: To tapping into the gluten burger, and that’s what Impossible Burger is, it’s just a gluten burger with million-dollar red food dye in it.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, it’s funny, because I wrote this column about tech burgers versus, like, more traditional veggie burgers and the one negative comment on Twitter was from a guy who literally is on the advisory board of Impossible Foods. It’s like, he had a link in his bio to, like, “These are my, like, you know, little things that,” you know, he can’t be completely transparent about, and he’s like, “Well, Impossible Foods is like number one,” and I was like, “OK, I don’t have to listen to you.”


ALICIA KENNEDY: I know you’re a Berkeley scientist but, like, you’ve got a conflict of interest there. Yeah, so, but you’ve also been doing these tofu sandwiches. Like, what made you want to do those and what inspired all those recipes there, other than having a deep fryer?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Well, we actually did it before we went to Whole Foods.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, we did, we did.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We did it, what was it, like five years ago or something at Smorgasburg?

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, 2013.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: So, it was like…

DANIEL STRONG: It wasn’t good. I don’t even think it was good, but it lit a fire.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It sold out so fast, and we had such a dangerous setup, because we didn’t have a deep fryer at Smorgasburg, we just had, like, a pot on a butane burner in our super crowded tent.

ALICIA KENNEDY: I’m scared just hearing about that, yeah.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I think we only had like 30 portions of it or something. But, so, we made it, it was a huge hit, everybody loved it and then, yeah, when we moved into Whole Foods.

DANIEL STRONG: We made it, but we also, it sold, but I know I didn’t like it. I think Danielle didn’t like it. We went home afterwards and we were like, “How can we make that good?’

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, and so then Dan started experimenting and, yeah, when we got the deep fryer at Whole Foods, that’s where it really started happening and then, yeah, we went to LA with it and…

DANIEL STRONG: Put it on a donut, put it on a waffle.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We just put it on anything, and that’s our number one seller.




DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It’s pretty incredible. It’s hard, too, because I want people to try other things, but they’re like obsessed with it.

ALICIA KENNEDY: It’s really good. It’s like, “That’s what I want,” like what I want to bite into. But so, yeah, you’ve put these things on donuts and waffles and everything and you are kind of explicitly like a comfort food operation. I’ve talked about this a little bit with other people, like, vegan food has a very big obsession with comfort food. Like, why do you think that is? Is it because nostalgia, or….?

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, I think it is nostalgia. I hate the term comfort food.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: He really hates it so much.

DANIEL STRONG: And we’ve been branded as vegan comfort food so many times.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: At like stupid festivals we’ve done, like that, we didn’t even have a name, it was just, like, “Vegan comfort food.” It was like, “Oh god.”

DANIEL STRONG: I just, any time I hear it I think, like, curling up on a couch with a snuggy and a bucket of macaroni and cheese and it just feels so gross.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: It doesn’t sound bad.

ALICIA KENNEDY: What would you prefer to call your food?

DANIEL STRONG: I think, I think I call it fast food. I think that’s probably a more offensive term.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I hate that term.

DANIEL STRONG: But I think that’s, when we started, that was secretly my aspiration was, like, let’s do fast food. Let’s do really good vegan fast food.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We don’t do fast food, though.

DANIEL STRONG: Oh, but we’re so fast.


DANIEL STRONG: I mean, the ingredients are better and I’m pretty sure more care goes into what we make than what McDonald’s makes. No offense, McDonald’s. But…

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I’m pretty sure. I’m 150 percent sure.

DANIEL STRONG: At the end of the day, like, I want people to be able to come in and get out in five minutes and go enjoy our food somewhere else.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Because they can’t stay here.

DANIEL STRONG: Yeah, the security guard will come and yell at you if you stay.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Well, what do you guys, is there anything you miss, like, what kind of flavors or textures or anything, is there anything you haven’t recreated that you miss from those omnivore days?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I miss Italian pastries.

ALICIA KENNEDY: We’ve talked about this, yeah. For me too, it’s insane, but you also have made a great cannoli before. I remember this.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Oh, oh, that cannoli, yeah.

ALICIA KENNEDY: I’ve had other vegan cannolis and yours was the best one.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Thank you so much, that means so much to me, because I’m not a baker. Yeah, those were gluten-free cannolis and they were, yeah, I remember when you and Anita came by and had those that day. Yeah, I miss Italian pastries like no other. And it’s hard, because we live right down the street from Fortunato Brothers and it’s torture. I just, like, smell it and look away.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, I spent a morning in that kitchen once writing about the marzipan, and it was just, like, just incredible, just the sugar in the air and the flour and the rolling out the, I don’t want to say the Italian word, but like the lobster tails.


ALICIA KENNEDY: Just an incredible place, and we need a vegan version of that.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We do, absolutely. I’m putting my money on you, Alicia. I think you’re going to do it.

ALICIA KENNEDY: I wish, I’m just from Long Island, I’m not even Italian. But yeah, for sure.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Someone needs to do it for sure. It’s a big void.

ALICIA KENNEDY: What about you, Daniel, anything?

DANIEL STRONG: When I was growing up, we always had this box of Dansk butter cookies.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh, god, I love those too.


DANIEL STRONG: I’ve had one once in my life, and the box that we had in our apartment was actually just full of needles and thread.



DANIEL STRONG: And I would always open it up to see if there was cookies in it, just to see, and there never was. I think that’s the one thing, if I were to say one thing I miss, it’s the butter cookie.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, no, absolutely. I like the pretzel-shaped ones with, like, the big sugar crystals on top.

DANIEL STRONG: The big crystal sugars. Yeah.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Those were the best ones.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Absolutely, totally.

ALICIA KENNEDY: So, what is next for Chickpea and Olive? What are you hoping for or planning for, even if it’s just maybe a new sandwich?

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Well, I’m excited for the burger we’re working on, but we have a lot of things in the air, and I feel like we have a lot of balls in the air constantly, so I think, I don’t know, we fantasize about opening our own storefront, but I think I want to move more in the direction of like CPG. So, some sort of package product and, I don’t know. Dan, what are you thinking?

DANIEL STRONG: The opportunities right now are, like, we’ve got a lot of excellent opportunities that are all incredibly daunting. So, I think the big thing I’m looking forward to is just, like, a week off.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Do you guys get time off? Do you build that into your…

DANIEL STRONG: Not yet, not these past six years.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I’ve gotten a little more time off than Dan. It’s a little harder for Dan to, like, exit out of the, I mean, it’s not easy for me as well.

DANIEL STRONG: I’m not very trusting, I’m a bad delegator. So, I really have to, like, figure out how to find a cog that fits into the, the machine the way I do.

ALICIA KENNEDY: It’s basically impossible when you’re self-employed to take time off.



ALICIA KENNEDY: I did it at the end of last year and I’ve regretted it ever since.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Yeah, same, I mean, I took, I took, I don’t know, some time off in October and I came back to disaster and I’ve been catching up ever since.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Exactly. You never do.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: You don’t, and I was like, “Why did I take that time off?’

ALICIA KENNEDY: You’ve got to love it. Seriously. So, for you guys, is cooking a political act?



DANIEL STRONG: Absolutely.



DANIEL STRONG: Because, I think, you know, eating at home and choosing to be vegan, you know, it’s a boycott. You’re telling the companies that you’re not willing to pay for the products they make, and you live without them and you live without them happily. Hopefully happily. Then, as a business, we are doing that on a larger scale. We’re buying a lot more food and we’re not buying it from Cargill and we’re not buying it from Tyson and we’re not buying it from, you know, those other assholes.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Sysco, I don’t know? Yeah.

DANIEL STRONG: We have full operational control over who we buy from and we’re never going to give our money to people that we don’t like.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: We’re, we’re going to try not to.

DANIEL STRONG: We’re going to do our best.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: I mean, I definitely give money to people I don’t like, but it’s not by choice.

DANIEL STRONG: But yeah, so it’s political, it’s an act of rebellion.


ALICIA KENNEDY: Thank you, guys, so much for being here.

DANIEL STRONG: Thank you for having us.

DANIELLE RICCIARDI: Thank you so much for having us.