Vanessa Phillips, I am the co-Founder and CEO of Feel Good Foods, a natural frozen food company, that focuses on indulgent and familiar favorites. Our foods are sold in grocery stores nationwide. I am also the creator of Chelsea Market's Friedman's restaurant.
Before Feel Good Foods was born, I was making gluten-free foods out of my studio apartment in Brooklyn and delivering them to the gluten-intolerant the community in NYC. It was hard for me to find tasty gluten-free options and so I took it upon myself to get the job done. My passion soon became a reality and with the help of my business partner Tryg Siverson, who is a talented chef from Food Network's Chopped and also former Friedman's Restaurant owner. We merged our culinary visions, tastes, and backgrounds to make simple, high-quality foods accessible. Feel Good Foods is available in retailers such as Whole Foods, Target, Costco and many others, big and small, across the U.S.
It all started because we had a recipe for gluten-free dumplings. Soon after, I got a contact out of Whole Foods. I knew absolutely nothing about the consumer packaged goods industry and went into it completely naive. I put the dumplings into a Ziploc bag and typed up quickly how to prepare them and printed it out. I had a packaging mockup that my friend did and then shipped it off to one of the headquarters of Whole Foods. I thought that I would never hear back and I was surprised when I received an email from Whole Foods stating they were going to put it in 27 locations. We’re now in every Whole Foods Market as well as Target and Costco across the U.S.
Growing up my favorite food to eat was Chinese. My parents had a lot of Chinese restaurants and ordered in a lot- I had overexposure to gluten products. As a kid, my mom thought I was allergic to something but I would always say “I don’t care what it is as long as I can keep eating these eggrolls.” When I found out I was celiac, I was devastated. Chinese food was no longer an option for me to eat.
When I met Tryg, he also shared my love for Asian food. He had worked at Nobu, Jean-Georges' Spice Market, it was a shared passion of ours. He asked me one day what foods I missed... then I listed off egg rolls, dumplings, and tempura, and he started cooking me dishes from his former restaurants, tweaking them to be gluten-free. These experiences had me thinking about all of the other gluten-intolerant people out there who are missing these foods, too, and don’t have access to them.
I always wanted to be involved in the food side of the food industry and had done a trial run gluten-free menu for my father’s restaurant. The foods were met with rave reviews. One day someone had come into the restaurant, tried the lasagna I made and fell in love with it to the point of asking me if she can buy it in bulk to take home. From there, I put up an ad online and had 20 orders after the first week. This grew to 50 orders per week...especially after many gluten-free bloggers had started writing about this girl in NYC who was delivering gluten-free lasagnas. My order count exploded. The reality was that I was living in a 450 sq ft studio apartment and realized it wasn’t economic I took down the ad and regrouped, which is how the inspiration for Friedman’s came to be. However, I loved the idea of people serving my food in their homes and I never got over that idea… I knew that one day I would come back to that concept, but it was on the back burner while Tryg and I launched Friedman’s. Feel Good Foods was born from that. It’s Friedman’s but in a box.
There aren’t many companies trying to own the frozen space with chef-made & convenient foods-especially gluten-free ones! My diagnosis with celiac disease was, in essence, the driving force behind my entrepreneurial career path. Food takes us back to our favorite memories. It’s what we surround ourselves with when we are feeling joy or sadness. Being able to offer foods that people crave and want to indulge in, but in a “feel good” way, is the ultimate health and wellness gift we can give. As an all-natural, gluten-free company we know there’s a stigma around gluten-free foods sometimes. We want everyone to try to Feel Good Foods to see if it’s something that could become a part of their food routine. I wasn’t able to find great-tasting gluten-free foods that I can take out of my freezer to heat and eat but now they exist!