Kacie, you have a background as a fashion stylist, and Caitlin, you worked in advertising. What led you to your partnership and to creating Honey Hi?
Kacie: The long story short is that we were sick. I was working grueling 10 to 12 hour shoot days, living off unhealthy catering food, often with a mean and abusive boss yelling at me. (Fashion! it’s so glamorous!) While I loved the aesthetics and expression of fashion, on a day to day basis, the industry left me feeling unfulfilled and devoid of purpose. At 24 I had a complete and total health meltdown. Nothing worked anymore. My digestion was destroyed. My hair was falling out. I was gaining weight. I was unhappy. I felt like an alien had taken over my body. (I also had contracted Lyme disease at some point and had no idea for years.) I saw specialists who suspected I was developing a serious autoimmune disease. Instead of taking the medication and hoping for the best, I threw myself into diet, spending hours sitting at Barnes and Noble in Union Square reading books about nutrition and copying down recipes. I started making all my own food and bringing it to set, telling everyone all about what I was learning. Caitlin and I had moved to California by this point and our tiny kitchen had become our healthy food laboratory. After a shoot with Jennifer Lawrence where I spent two hours talking to her about her thyroid, I decided it was finally time to throw in the towel and go back to school for nutrition. Eventually we realized the greatest impact we could have would be to just serve the kind of food we were so passionately talking about.
Caitlin: Well, we’ve been best friends since we were 18. We met in college in a Philosophy of Religion class (shout out to professor Martin Eyestone!). We have sort of a cosmic yin yang thing in our relationship and we always wanted to work together but we didn’t know how. A few days after I graduated college I started working at a big advertising agency. It was also so fast paced and A LOT of long hours. I was learning a ton and so invested in performing the best I possibly could that I completely neglected any form of self care. And I don’t mean self care as in bubble baths and meditation. I mean self care as in, sleeping and remembering to eat something other than a frozen veggie burger and a bowl of cereal every now and again. Honestly, I didn’t even know what self care meant. But about 4 years into the job, my body started shutting down. Lack of sleep, lack of nutrients and a lack of a social life almost took me down. My hair started falling out in clumps. I couldn’t sleep even when I had the time. I had severe anxiety and was completely depressed. I had to teach myself about what worked for my body and what I needed emotionally and physically to be happy and sustained. Food was the key to this for me. A lot of people find removing things from their diet discouraging but for some reason it always felt like an interesting challenge for me. I thrive with creative parameters and it forced me to become a better cook because the food I wanted to eat every day wasn’t available in restaurants. I have always loved food more than anything in the world and learning how deeply it effects all aspects of our life from physical and emotional well being, to environmental sustainability, to politics made me fall even deeper in love. As Kacie said, we started experimenting with food and every diet under the sun. We finally knew the best way to work together was to show people what we had learned about food and how powerful it can be for healing.
How does working as a team inform and inspire what you do?
We have been best friends for over twelve years. The moment we met we knew we had found an elusive yin yang. We are different in so many respects but we share the same aesthetic, language and common goal around what is meaningful to us and how to deliver that message. We share a synergy that challenges us often but ultimately pushes us to another level. We are each others phantom limbs and the Ashley to each other's Mary Kate. We also wear the exact same size of clothing and shoe (bonus!).
Nutrition and sustainability are at the heart of Honey Hi. Tell us a bit about that awakening.
Honey Hi comes directly from our hearts and our personal experience. Our concept wasn’t crowd sourced by what was “trendy” or happening in the health world. Actually, when we were going through this health crash 7 years ago, almost no one was talking about any of this! People laughed at us when we brought our own gluten free pizza crusts made from sweet potato flour and plantains to the pizza party. But eating this way changed our lives completely. We saw how finally having a body that functions optimally trickles into every aspect of your life. The gravest injustice is that people are deprived of this experience because of marketing and industry practices that know the damage their food does to people’s health. They care about profit rather than public health. Access to and education around eating nourishing food should be a basic human right!
What role does sourcing play in your mission?
Sourcing lies at the core of everything we do. Knowing where something comes from, how it was grown, that the practices employed by the grower are beneficial to the environment and their employees are just as important as being beneficial for health. Going out to eat at a restaurant is usually a compromise as most use cheap ingredients to meet the bottom line, or they just aren’t educated about what food does to the body. We knew we had to do it differently, that eating at a restaurant could be just as healthy, nourishing and comforting as the high quality food you make for your family at home. From scratch, with love.
What does “a new kind of comfort food” mean to you?
It means eating as an act of celebration, joy and sustainability. We LOVE food. But we also want to eat in a way that sustains us, gives us energy and clarity and allows us to do the work came here to do. It shouldn’t be an either/or. You can have both. This isn’t a diet. It’s an approach, a lifestyle, a new way of doing things now that we know what works best for us.
The menu at Honey Hi isn’t limited to any particular dietary dogma. How do we benefit from “radical inclusivity” and a broader view of health that recognizes each body’s unique needs?
At Honey Hi we want to show people that “healthy food” is just food. There is so much dogma and evangelism surrounding healthy eating and it can be incredibly limiting. I think people feel safer with labels like ‘vegan’ or ‘paleo’ or ‘ayurvedic' but radical inclusivity is about taking the science and philosophy from each of these important disciplines and creating food that is crave worthy, sustainable and comforting, something that works for your body and psychology in the long term, not just for a little while. There is something for everyone at Honey Hi, no matter which philosophy you gravitate towards most.
What are each of your favorite dishes at Honey Hi?
Kacie: Another restaurant owner recently asked me if I’m sick of eating our food. The answer is NO! I recently took a two week vacation and all I wanted was Honey Hi. Right now I’m loving the Faroe Islands salmon bowl with a za’atar tahini, turmeric pickled onion, smashed cucumber, heirloom white bean salad, castelvetrano olives and black rice. I add some of our nettle pesto and some roasted veggies. Or the avocado toast with grass fed lamb sausages on top.
Caitlin: I crave Honey Hi constantly. It’s my favorite thing to eat. I think this is probably similar to mothers thinking their baby is the cutest one in the world, ha! I eat the miso bowl at least 3 times a week. It is the most comforting thing in the world to me. My mom also helped us come up with the recipe for the miso dressing so its got a special place in my heart for that reason as well.
Do you each cook at home and does your at-home style reflect the food you serve there?
Kacie: Cooking at home has changed for me drastically since opening a restaurant. I used to have a fridge overflowing with farmers market abundance and every sauce and condiment imaginable. I don’t have time to cook like that anymore, but I still find a way to eat that reflects my commitment to eating sustainably. I keep staples like wild caught smoked salmon, Lavva coconut yogurt, bee pollen and tons of jars of sauerkraut. The essence of nutrient density and deliciousness is the same but the plating is definitely less effusive. But I’ll pull out the stops for a dinner party.
Caitlin: I have so much less time to cook at home than I used to – and I really eat at Honey Hi almost every day – but I feel so good knowing exactly what I'm putting in my body and how it will make me feel. When I cook at home these days it's very simple. A bunch of veggies of different colors sautéed with olive oil or ghee with an egg and avocado on top.
Can you share your favorite recipe using The Coconut Butter?
THE HONEY HI SEAGLASS LATTE
1 teaspoon The Matcha
1 big tablespoon The Blue Majik Coconut Butter
12 ounces hot water
Blend on high for about 8 seconds and enjoy the frothy goodness! The matcha and Blue Majik make the most beautiful sea foam color.
What are your favorite products from CAP Beauty?
Kacie: CAP's The Matcha is the best I’ve ever had hands down. Other matcha gives me so much anxiety! CAP's is so smooth and delicious. I also love The Blue Majik Coconut Butter with E3 Live. I eat it by the spoonful for dessert interchanged with bites of chyawanprash.
Caitlin: The Matcha!!! It’s my favorite one ever. I recently brought The Matcha Sticks to a bachelorette party and made a bunch of girlfriends different matcha drinks that they’d never had before. It was such a fun thing to share!