Rebecca Irey Discusses Pure Market Express

I recently had the chance to conduct an email interview with Rebecca Irey, Certified Raw Chef and co-founder of Minnesota's Pure Market Express. (I posted my own take on Pure Market Express and their food yesterday.) Rebecca discussed her reasons for starting a raw food company, her thoughts on sustainability and local food, and her plans for the business. Here's our interview:

SGT: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Rebecca: Quentin and I are the parents of six children, married and in business successfully together for the last 15 years. After spending over a decade in the healthcare industry, we are thrilled to launch Pure Market Express with the goal of bringing absolutely delicious craveworthy food to the mainstream. Oh yeah, and it’s soooo healthy too! :0)

SGT: How, when, and why did you get into raw food?

Rebecca: I was first introduced to the raw food concept at a women’s retreat. Being a vegetable rebel (didn’t like them then and don’t really like them now), I didn’t pay much attention but after our 5th pregnancy, at over 100 pounds overweight, I knew I had to do something different and decided to give raw eating a go. To my most unexpected delight, I am able to eat what I want, when I want, as much as a want as long as its raw and then weight continues to melt off. I am now down almost 100 pounds.

SGT: How did Pure Market Express start? What are your goals for the business?

Rebecca: I ate a completely raw diet during our 7th pregnancy. I really think it was during this time that Quentin noticed the huge health benefits I was experiencing, even more than the weight loss. I continued to slowly lose weight throughout my pregnancy, felt nothing short of amazing and had an easy birth and quick recovery. However, after little Luke joined our family, it became increasingly difficult for me to maintain my raw diet while chasing our little tribe, homeschooling and owning our thriving documentation company with Quentin. During a family vacation, I finally broke down and asked my husband to find a cook for me or at the very least a raw delivery service. I didn’t feel good, I was gaining weight and honestly I just wasn’t my normal happy self. That conversation was the seed of Pure Market Express.

We searched for a service to deliver food for me and were wildly unsuccessful. Finally, Quentin came to me and said “maybe we are meant to do this ourselves” and after a year of planning, creating, testing and trialing, Pure Market Express came into being. We have developed a full menu of items that are raw, free of refined sugars and preservatives, dairy free, meat free and almost all gluten free but most importantly delicious. We wanted to create food that you would choose whether you had any food issues or not. Food that is so craveworthy that your average “meatarian” would still stop by for a treat after work.

SGT: What do you hope people learn or do differently after trying your food?

Rebecca: Eating healthy food doesn’t mean sacrificing taste or quality. Raw cuisine is not synonymous with baby carrots and celery sticks. We can have the food we love, ice cream, cheesecakes, pastas, cookies, bacon jalapeno poppers, with no guilt. It is so easy to add more healthy food to your diet and love every minute of it.

SGT: Where are most of your customers? Minnesota?

Rebecca: We are really excited about our local customer base. It is more than we ever expected and keeps us hopping. :0) Currently we are pretty evenly divided between local traffic and national clientele.

SGT: How can I get your food, other than by mail?

Rebecca: Besides delivery, we have a local retail takeout location in Chaska [500 Chestnut Street, Chaska, MN]].

SGT: Who creates the recipes?

Rebecca: I do. Although now we have a wonderful synergy with our kitchen team and I have no doubt we will be adding creations from them to our menu very soon.

SGT: How do local, organic, and/or seasonal ingredients play a role in your recipes?

Rebecca: During the Minnesota growing season, we have developed some wonderful relationships with local farmers to get everything possible within about a 15 mile radius of our store. We have been privileged to meet our farmers, see their operations and the sustainable and organic practices they use with their food. Some things, such as coconuts, pineapple and the like, can’t be acquired in Minnesota and we have developed great relationships with farms across the nation to build our supply when Minnesota produce is not in season.

SGT: I've noticed that the packaging doesn't seem sustainable. Why, and is this something you're planning to change?

Rebecca: You’re right – it’s not….yet. Our first goal with our packaging was a sturdy container that would keep the food fresh with very little, if any, spillage during transit. While we accomplished that goal with our current packaging, we are keenly aware of our footprint and as an organization try to keep it as small as possible. We are working with FedEx to create a cooler return program to encourage recycling of our coolers. We also work very hard to keep our facility as green friendly as possible. We recently installing a vermicomposting program for all of our scraps and almost everything else that comes out of our facility goes into recycling.

SGT: You've got kids. Do they eat raw food too? Do they like it?

Rebecca: We have six beautiful children. Our goal with them is to make sure they are knowledgeable about their food choices but we try not to be the “food police.” They’re kids and they still like their kid food. However, since the launch of the new homeschooling year has begun in the breakroom at Pure Market Express, the children are more “raw” than ever. They are here for two of the three meals of the day and usually come in with their orders for breakfast and lunch in hand. Some of the menu items at Pure Market Express have actually been created by our children including many of the desserts being a stroke of genius from our oldest daughter (18).

SGT: What other raw food resources would you recommend?

Rebecca: There are so many wonderful resources on raw food! "Simply Raw" is a fabulous documentary that everyone, especially diabetics, should see. Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. The China Study is so revealing on the long term effects of dairy and meat proteins in the body. Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens. Quantum Eating by Tanya Zavasta.