Krissy Ostermiller wants consumers to understand just how good a plant-based diet can make you feel, and now her company, YaYe, is bringing that healthy education right to your door.
"YaYe is a name I made up, and it stands for You Are What You Eat," says Ostermiller, who hopes to eventually grow the company into a lifestyle brand. "We really take that food-as-medicine approach, and the name is to remind people that you have control over who you are."
When Ostermiller opened YaYe in Zeppelin Station (3501 Wazee Street) in February, she couldn't have predicted the massive shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic or how hard it would hit the restaurant industry. YaYe had just started selling organic cold-pressed juices, rainbow salads and raw dessert pies to the 400-plus employees in the upstairs offices, as well as folks seeking a plant-based lunch alternative. But even as Ostermiller lost the bulk of her counter business, the bad situation opened her up to another dream: delivering weekly meal packages to customers' homes and offices.
"My goal is to have a meal delivery business to help consumers understand a plant-based diet and to help incorporate these foods into daily life," says Ostermiller, who lives in Arvada with her husband and their dog. "I also want to debunk the myths, as a lot of people don't think this food will be fulfilling, or they won't get enough protein or the nutrients they need." The latter part, she adds, is just not true.
Making balanced and tasty plant-based food isn't easy, but Ostermiller found help during a difficult time. She was able to connect with chef Jessica Chambers, who had been furloughed from the Edible Beats restaurant group, which operates Root Down, Linger, El Five and Vital Root. Ostermiller quickly hired Chambers to oversee YaYe's food program, which includes research and development, and also led to the two working on a cookbook and planning guide that will provide a solid monthly lunch and dinner plan for customers.
The goal, says Ostermiller, is to offer 48 set items so that there's more than enough variety for each day of the month while allowing customers to look forward to favorites down the line. The food is all vegetarian, dairy-free, GMO-free and organic. Many of the dishes also have an international influence, including options like enchiladas, Thai peanut noodle bowls and Chinese-style orange cauliflower.
"We like to give our customers as much diversity as possible," the business owner notes. "We also talk to our customers about what they are loving and then pare down from there and eliminate less successful recipes."
Though Ostermiller has been a vegetarian and then vegan (though she does eat honey) since the age of 14, this is the first time the 29-year-old has entered the food business. Before launching YaYe at the beginning of the year, she worked as a sales engineer at an advertising company. While Ostermiller appreciated her job, the money and the people she worked for, she knew it wasn't the path she wanted to stay on.
One thing that pushed her into opening YaYe was a complete life change that came after a tragic plane crash that claimed four members of her family, including her aunt and grandfather who had raised her. Shortly after that, two more in her family died, leaving Ostermiller depressed and anxious. Her emotions were also tied to her once-incarcerated brother, who died when she was in college. All of these instances led her to a dark place, struggling with mental health. Through this period, she found the strength to start living life the way that she wanted, starting with what she did every day.
"I have always been naturopathic, and I didn't want to take any medication," says Ostermiller, who decided to change what she put in her body to see if that would aid in recovery. "What helped me with my mental health was cutting out the refined sugars, and I super cleaned up my diet.
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"A month into eating clean, I starting craving fresh fruit, and my mouth would salivate at the thought," she adds, noting that prior to that time, she would seek vegan ice cream and sugary drinks when the need for sweet hit her. "Your health is a long-term investment, and the sooner you look at it that way, the better life will be."
Now Ostermiller feels good; she attributes much of the change to her diet. She has research to back it up, too, as studies have been done on how whole, vitamin-rich foods can boost mental as well as physical health. That's why she wants to share this knowledge and meals that bring the facts to fruition. It doesn't hurt that the food tastes good, too, with dishes such as a Mediterranean plate with baked falafel, roasted-beet hummus, lettuce cups, chimichurri cauliflower rice and pickled onion; cauliflower Alfredo with roasted mushroom, garlic and asparagus, hemp parmesan, tomato and rainbow chard; and melon salad with blueberry-basil-chia vinaigrette. All of the food is fresh, colorful, organic and sourced as locally as possible. Plus, many of the dishes are ready to eat from the container, though some need gentle heating first.
Order YaYe on the company's website for home delivery with either a three-day or a six-day meal plan, which includes lunch and dinner for approximately $15 a meal. Or visit the YaYe shop in Zeppelin Station starting again in August; Ostermiller has decided to close the walk-up counter for July, but will still be doing meal service.