How does your food reflect your connection to the Gulf region?
Runicia: I’m from Hunters Point and Rheema is from Lakeview. It’s printed on our truck. We have a deep connection to our heritage and culture, but also to the city. Lots of families here migrated from the South to work in shipyards, so there is a deep connection to places like Louisiana and Texas. We highlight this in our food with the names and ingredients we choose. We want you to get our experience as black individuals living in San Francisco.
Rima: We’re all over the Gulf, too. The beauty of the truck is that we respect who we are but also meet people where they are. We’ve been from SF to Richmond to Oakland to Stockton to Sacramento to Santa Cruz to San Ramon to Sonoma County and back. It’s dope. We appear everywhere. We also did when we didn’t have the truck, but now it’s about providing more access in our communities. We’ve also partnered with Bay Area businesses like NaTRULY Earth in Richmond, a black-owned co-op space with juices and alkaline foods, a step above vegan.
What challenges have you overcome when running an independent company?
Runicia: Under-representation. We started in this industry without any real knowledge about how to run a food business. Fortunately, we chose it all the way. But it is often difficult for communities of color to have the capital to start a business, even when we are innovative. It makes you doubt yourself. Lacking access to guidance and support, we had to figure out how to do it all as we went along.
Also, it’s hard to be a black woman in a male-dominated industry. Looks like we have to work 10 times as hard to be taken seriously and have the same chances. The food industry is fast paced and changing, so there is always a need to pivot and keep your business sustainable. During the pandemic, we were impacted – before we even had a food truck – and had to completely revamp our model from popups and home events to using social media more and engaging our audience. It’s hard to find good and reliable employees as well. This is happening all over the food industry right now.
When you’re not eating your food, where do you go to sample vegetarian dishes?
Raima: Our favorite is Umm Sabor, on Grove Street [in San Francisco]. It is inspired by the Latin language and its influence. They make the best mothafocene fusion. The enchiladas and sushi there are hella good. They make vegetarian dishes that you can share in groups. also, Golden Lotus, in Auckland. Comidadejen, Casa Borinqueña and Koquiro, Puerto Rican places filled with.
Roncia: Malibu Burgers in Piedmont are also good. They are our friends. We go to Wildseed often. They have a delicious mushroom pizza that we love. Gracias Madre. There is a great Ethiopian, like Oasis Cafe in Fillmore too. Ramana Café in Auckland. Botanical Solstice in Stockton, which hosts pop-ups. Vegan Heat, black owned, it’s a popup.
merciful: Oh, what’s the name of our favorite ice cream place? Cube Nice Cream. They have the main coconut and lemon ice cream. My God. It’s hey good. Makes you want to slap your mother.
What will you cook next?
Runicia: We are working on a cookbook that will come out at the end of this year. We are working on more online content as well. This job is something we really enjoy. We want to educate our communities. We want to take advantage of creating more video content to provide more resources on how to shop and where to start being vegan. These are conversations we’ve had with people from our communities who visit our truck. We have a blog that we use somewhat of – which Bizerkeley Vegan used to write for – but we haven’t been able to do that much lately. Our main job is to keep in touch with our community and cook in as many ways as possible.
Rima: We’re on the mission a lot. You cannot miss us.