Something wickedly delicious has made its way to Kansas City, said Olive Cooke, Kim Conyers, and Sylvia Metta. Combining their passions for cooking and community, the trio founded a pop-up business centered on plant-based comfort food.
“A couple days before our first pop-up, it became so surreal that we were actually doing this; we even had to cut off orders at 50 sandwiches because we sold out. It was pretty exciting,” recalled Metta, who launched the Cauldron Collective with her two friends in early January.
The Cauldron Collective follows a collective culinary model — meaning everyone who works at the business has part ownership. It encompasses profit sharing and collective decision making, they shared.
“Once or twice a month, there’s a meeting where people can bring up the things that need to be decided by the group,” Cooke noted of the business model. “That includes things like what to do with your profit — the group has to decide if we share that out as dividends or reinvest in the business, things like that.”
From each co-founder’s background in restaurants, they’ve found that sole ownership is not all it’s cut out to be; rather, sharing the responsibility and control serves a less stressful model, they said.
“Examples have shown that worker-owned businesses just do better; they consistently last longer and make better products than similar operations,” Conyers said. “…When someone knows that the effort they put in will directly correlate to what they get in return, they put in more effort than they will with getting a flat wage.
“I hear a lot of people are concerned about the risk of this ‘new’ concept, [whereas] we see it more as a safety net more than anything,” she continued.
Plant-based potions, pop-ups and partnerships
All of the Cauldron Collective’s concoctions are plant-based meals. The goal of their recipes is not to imitate meat, but rather show how plants can be a tasty and filling alternative, they shared.
“We’re heavily focusing on plant-based cooking mainly [because we are] inspired by the health benefits and environmental sustainability,” Conyers said. “It’s hard to get a quick meal in the area that is healthy and plant based, and that’s a void we really want to fill.”
Identifying as “cooking witches” means cooking with intention, Metta said.
“There is a certain intentionality and energy that we put into our food in the way that we prepare it and interact with other individuals,” Metta explained. “We also like to use certain herbs here and there that are associated with different aspects of witchcraft.”
Some meals by Cauldron Collective have included: fried mushroom po’boys, spaghetti and beet-balls, buffy cauliflower and sweet potato mac slaw.
The trio is also focused on its community impact through Cauldron Collective, they shared. With their pop-ups, they’ve partnered with other small businesses and organizations that share similar values.
All proceeds from the dessert option during their first pop-up went to Kansas City’s Food Not Bombs — an all-volunteer effort in operation since the 1980s. The Kansas City branch serves hot meals at 4 p.m. Sundays at the crossroads of Independence and Monroe avenues, according to its Facebook page.
“Food Not Bombs has been something that’s very important to us,” Cooke shared, noting that they accept food from a gleaning program to make dishes for Food Not Bombs. “Once we have a brick-and-mortar restaurant, we will figure out ways to take leftovers over there.”
Cauldron Collective partners with other food ventures as well — highlighting Primordial Kombucha at their latest pop-up.
Foodies interested in Cauldron Collective’s next pop-up experience can grab their broomsticks April 24 and fly over to the KC Vegan Market. Vendors are set to appear 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 2711 Troost Ave.
Shining a spotlight
International Transgender Day of Visiblity is March 31 in KCMO. In recognition, the city is swearing in 13 commissioners to the newly formed Kansas City LGBTQ+ Commission.
International Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society.
The city is expected to light select buildings with the colors of the trans flag.
All are welcome in the coven
A passion for cooking is not the only experience Cooke, Conyers and Metta share. All three women identify as trangender — bringing them together as friends, co-workers and people, Cooke noted.
“We’ve got a lot of shared experiences that we bond over; it makes us work really well as a team,” she shared. “… I think our experience as trans women also really opens us up to all the different ways that people can be marginalized.”
Although the journey to a storefront location is likely still a couple years away, the trio pledged it would be a welcoming and safe place for all customers. They envision a late-night hangout spot where people can enjoy art and listen to live music.
“A big thing for us is creating a space for other queer people who kind of fall outside the mainstream queer social spaces,” Cooke said. “There’s a lot of places in Kansas City for queer people to socialize, but it’s mostly bars and focused on the cis-gay man experience. A lot of drag bars aren’t always very welcoming places for trans women, so we wanted to create a space where everyone can feel comfortable. ”
Until then, the trio is looking into a food truck for scaling the business, ramping up pop-ups in the summer and casting more spells, they shared.
“We put all those love spells on people on Valentine’s Day,” Cooke teased regarding Cauldron Collective’s Valentine’s Day pop-up. “Or — are we not supposed to tell them that?”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.