Meet the 22-year-old college kid with her own vegan restaurant

  • Sol Sips is a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, New York that serves meat substitutes for foods like fried chicken.
  • The owner and chef, Francesca Chaney, is 22-years-old and hopes to make healthy eating more accessible to New York communities.
  • Every Saturday and Tuesday, the restaurant hosts a sliding-scale brunch during which customers may pay anything between $7 and $15 for their meals.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Manny: This chicken isn't actually chicken. It's vegan. It's Francesca Chaney's version of fried chicken. She's the 22-year-old owner of Sol Sips, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. Yes, you heard me correctly. She's only 22 with her own restaurant.

Personally, I'm not really big on vegan meat substitutes. There's something weird to me about trying to mimic the taste and texture of meat. But I stopped by Sol Sips to see if Francesca could change my mind. She swears by plant-based diets and became fully vegan when she went to college.

Francesca: The catalyst moment was when I realized that I'm responsible for taking care of my own body. I had recently moved out of my home where my mom had been cooking vegan food, and so, me transitioning into my own apartment and just like, college life, I had to figure out ways to nourish myself.

Manny: Studies show that lower-income neighborhoods are more exposed to unhealthy food sources, and Francesca wants to change that.

Francesca: My motivation is really in believing that everyone deserves the opportunity to have a plant-based meal, to be fueled by the energy that's coming directly from the earth, and also to use these resources to take care of our bodies and cure our bodies, and in realizing that not every neighborhood gets to have access to organic produce or even vegan or vegetarian options.

Manny: Of course, organic food can be pricey. But since Sol Sips is all about accessibility, they have a solution.

Francesca: So we do a sliding-scale brunch every Saturday and Tuesday, and you can come in and pay anything that you can afford between $7 and $15. We've seen people come from the Bronx, from New Jersey, from many different parts of New York.

Manny: Sol Sips has a tiny kitchen with just one stove and a very small prep area, but that doesn't stop the food from flowing at a quick pace. The restaurant is small, but it's usually full.

OK, it's time for the taste test. I ordered the vegan fried chicken sandwich. Like I said earlier, I'm kind of weirded out by meat substitutes, but this sandwich really surprised me. Savory fried oyster mushrooms and avocado is paired with sweet raspberry and jam, and it's honestly one of the best sandwiches I've had in New York. Francesca cooks the food herself, but sometimes she gets some special help.

Francesca: My mom is extremely helpful. Coming in and also, there are moments where by, like, I need to be supported not only as a business owner but, like, just as a human being. As a daughter. Also being a person that's growing into my own self, as a 22-year-old woman.

Manny: Part of that growth includes growing the restaurant as well, making healthy eats more accessible to more of New York.

Francesca: I will continue to develop my practice of growing this space through that knowledge and also by providing those resources that I gather to my community.

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