By Jessie Festa, Epicure & Culture Editor
What does food mean to you?
To Fiona Chan, founder of Story Plate, a dish of coconut tumeric-crusted fish or a bowl of brussels sprouts drizzled in tahini is more than just sustinence; it’s a story.
Not only that, but it’s a way to give back and support the community.
And you can take part, too.
If you’re looking for an online recipe sharing platform that also supports women in the culinary industry and gives back to charity, then you’ll absolutely want to get Story Plate on your radar.
Keep reading to learn why.
You’ll also snag a special recipe for Hishtel Labneh shared by Miranda Kaiser, Chef & Co-Owner of Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant and Bar in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kaiser is also a Culinary Contributor to Story Plate where she shares her Moroccan Lemon Chicken recipe. Yum!
A Recipe Sharing Platform With A Charitable Mission
Story Plate is a female-first recipe sharing platform that highlights female chefs, restaurateurs, and mixologists.
With each recipe download, Story Plate makes a donation to the Culinary Contributor’s charity of choice.
For instance, when you download a recipe for Artichokes a la Romana you’re supporting Equinox Restaurant in Washington DC while also helping to save gorillas from extinction through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation — which, by the way, just happens to be led by two female scientists.
Talk about supporting women!
Or maybe you’re craving some Roasted Halibut with Romesco and Pine Nut Butter from Rioja in Denver?
Feel good knowing your dinner is also helping to teach foodservice skills to women who are experiencing poverty through an organization called Work Options for Women.
If you’re looking for websites that give back, this one certainly deserves the title.
Story Plate’s Origins
The birth of this recipe sharing platform was not an accident, but one filled with purpose.
“We were a couple of months into COVID-19 and I was feeling anxious sitting at home thinking about all the mom and pop establishments, specifically restaurants, that I was missing, and how sad it would be if they didn’t make it through this difficult time,” explains Chan. “As a foodie raised by parents that were in the restaurant industry, I was especially empathetic towards restaurant owners. I understood their struggles and wanted to do something to help.”
This is how the seed for Story Plate was planted.
With a background in social entrepreneurship, Chan has always been mindful of supporting companies that give back and wanted to do the same with her newest venture.
Going back to the drawing board, she considered what problems needed to be solved, and thought about how she could incorporate a way to give back to both restaurants and people in need — while also creating something that was user-friendly.
The first problem she solved was for herself and her readers.
Remembering when her idea struck, Chan explains, “Why must recipe websites make it so difficult to scroll to the recipe itself? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrolled past a recipe while trying to bypass a short story about the time someone went to their great aunt’s orchard to harvest apples for this apple pie recipe and was stung by a swarm of angry bees.
“To add to this obstacle course of content, you’re also bombarded with banner ads and aggressive pop-ups. Why can’t there be a platform where you get straight to the point?”
What Makes The Story Plate Recipe Sharing Platform Different
After pinpointing the user experience she wanted to offer, Chan needed to figure out how to monetize these straight-to-the-point recipes to help raise funds for charitable organizations.
She pondered what would make someone pay for her recipes when there are so many free cooking blogs on the internet — when she was struck with her next big idea:
Instead of sharing her own creations, she would reach out to culinary professionals to access recipes from their restaurants that had never been released to the public.
Explains Chan, “Because travel and dining out have been restricted during this COVID pandemic, I figured why not bring a taste of these dining establishments to them?”
An incredible way to travel at home while giving back.
How Story Plate Empowers Women & Gives Back
Let’s pause for a moment to talk about female representation — or lack thereof it — in the food industry.
According to Nation’s Restaurant News, about 53% of entry-level positions in the food industry were held by women in 2018, up from 49% in 2017; however, as women move up the ranks those figures change drastically.
The study found that the rate of leadership roles (manager, senior manager/director, vice president and C-suite) for women has declined annually — with women representing just 18% of the food industry’s C-suite executives in 2018, down from 23% in 2017.
This is why Story Plate has chosen to highlight recipes from women and female-run establishments a their “Culinary Contributors.”
Says Chan, “I wanted to provide a platform that celebrates these women exclusively. In addition to sharing their stories, I wanted to empower these women on another level by enabling them to support the charities and causes that they care about.”
Chan also understood that adding a “give back” model to an existing business isn’t always easy, and she loves that Story Plate can be an opportunity to take that off of a restaurant’s hands.
How The Give Back Model Works
Here is a breakdown of where the money goes for every $2 recipe download:
- 85% goes to the Culinary Contributor’s charity of choice.
- 10% goes to the Culinary Contributor’s business.
- 5% goes to keeping Story Plate running.
- Bonus: When you purchase a recipe, you also have the option to make a larger contribution to the charity being supported!
While Chan realizes that 10% of a $2 recipe download won’t make a huge difference in business operations for a restaurant, they’re encouraged to use the money to do something uplifting for the staff.
Additionally, a little bit of money can go a long way when donated to charity, especially if enough people utilize the platform.
Says, Chan, “It’s a very tiny portion of a very small dollar amount but I’m feeling hopeful that one day Story Plate will become something bigger than I can imagine it to be and that small percentage will amount to something meaningful!”
Food With A Story
Along with highlighting recipes from female restauranteurs, chefs, and mixologists, Story Plate also highlights their stories.
“I consider myself an introverted extrovert,” says Chan. “I’m more of a listener than a talker so when I meet someone new I love learning about their life story.”
She continues, “When I was formulating the idea for Story Plate, I knew I wanted to incorporate the stories of these female leaders. I could only imagine how interesting their journeys have been in a field that appears to be dominated by male talent. Sharing their stories is a great way to celebrate their journeys, inspire others, and a way for our readers to connect with these Culinary Contributors.”
The Beauty Of Giving Back
Speaking of stories, Chan has her own to share; one that provides deeper insight into her passion for giving back:
“During my time at FBNW — the apparel line that I was a founding partner in — I gained deeper insight into the fact that access to food is a privilege and to the mass majority, access to healthy food is a luxury.
“One of my primary responsibilities at FBNW was to organize our monthly Food Drops where we would distribute bags of groceries that we would purchase as a part of our give-back program — each item sold equaled a bag of groceries to a child in need.
“We partnered with local Boys & Girls Clubs located within Title 1 school districts that received federal funds to support students in low-income areas. Most of these children live in food-insecure households, and in some cases, the subsidized meals that they would receive at school were the only meals that were guaranteed to them on a daily basis.
“FBNW allowed me the opportunity to get to know the people that I was impacting directly. Our grocery bags contained simple pantry items that the children could prepare for themselves even if an adult wasn’t home, plus a special sponsored snack of the month.
“Putting on those Food Drops really made a lasting impression on me and made me appreciate the things that many of us take for granted.
“Food is my vice, my social life — since I’m a non-drinker my idea of a night out is dinner — my hobby, and my passion. To take away my access to food would be devastating. Food is not only a necessity, it sparks joy, it brings people together, and it has the power to tell stories.
“I’m so grateful for all of the Story Plate Culinary Contributors that see the value in our work and have chosen to share their stories and recipes with us so that together we can make a positive impact in the lives of others through charitable donations!”
Click here to download a Story Plate recipe and be a part of this impact.
Hishtel Labneh Recipe
Speaking of recipes, Story Plate Culinary Contributor, Miranda Kaiser — who is also the Chef & Co-Owner of Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant and Bar in Tulsa, Oklahoma — has generously shared a recipe for Hishtel Labneh, a garlic-yogurt-based dip with Berber roasted cherry tomatoes.
Cook this at home to really delight your family and friends!
The dish can be served as an appetizer or for lunch and is gluten-free unless served with bread, though you can also serve it with gluten-free crackers.
Explains Kaiser, “I adore labneh. It’s simple to make, plus it’s a blank canvas that’s fun and easy to glamour up. In this case, I’ve used Berber roasted cherry tomatoes, feta, balsamic glaze, toasted pine nuts, and parsley to make it into a stunning and delicious appetizer. All you need is some warm Greek pita to wipe it up with or some gluten-free crackers.”
Recipe Notes From Kaiser:
The warm Berber roasted tomatoes explode their spicy, sweet-acidic juices and play superbly with the creamy, savory yogurt. The balsamic glaze and feta heighten the tang, the pine-nuts I just like, and the parsley looks really pretty.
Note that you will need to procure some flour or cheesecloth (you can buy it online, at a fabric shop, or at Sams Club).
Also, remember that it’s preferable to hang the yogurt the day before you want it. I like to use the full fat, cream top type of yogurt, which makes it so much more lush and rich, although the reduced fat stuff will work if you really must.
Labneh goes with pretty much everything, from a topping for a baked potato — just add some snipped chives and Lawry salt — to a sauce to serve alongside fish, where I recommend adding some chopped dill, lemon zest, and juice.
- 1 2-lb container of full-fat plain yogurt (Brown Cow is recommended)
- 1 tsp grated fresh garlic
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp Lawry salt
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 tsp Berber spice seasoning
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4-6 tbsp olive/canola oil plus a little extra to drizzle
- Crumbled feta
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Pine nuts (toasted is nice!)
- Balsamic glaze
– The day you want to eat this, take a sieve or colander, set it in a bowl so that there is at least a 3” gap between it and the bottom of the bowl.
– Line the sieve or colander with clean flour or cheesecloth. Make sure it is large enough to fit the yogurt and also hangs over the sides a bit.
– Open the yogurt and scoop it into the center of the cloth.
– Draw in the cloth sides then tie up or use a rubber band to close the fabric up.
– Set this entire contraption in the fridge for at least 8 hours — though 24 would be better if you can.
– A few hours before you need this dish ready, untie the cloth and up-end the “labneh” into a bowl. Set aside the whey to use later. I give it to my plants or use it as the liquid in bread to give it some “tang.”
– Season the labneh by stirring in the garlic, salt, and pepper. Only use 1/2 tsp of the salt in the beginning. As my dear old mum says, “You can always add, but you can’t take away.”
– Taste and determine if you want to add a little more salt or pepper. The garlic will be stronger once it’s sat for a while so don’t overdo it!
– Now for the tomatoes. You don’t have to make all of them, but this is a nice amount if you want to serve up all the labneh at once on a platter for a large group. If not hosting a large group, do however many you’d like, such as half or a quarter of the recipe.
– 20-30 minutes before you want to serve this dish, set your oven to 425°F.
– Mix up the cherry tomatoes, oil, Berber, and kosher salt in a bowl and make sure the tomatoes are well coated.
– Pour this mixture into a cast iron or heavy metal baking dish so that they settle in one layer.
– Drizzle with a bit more olive/canola oil, then roast them on the top shelf in the oven for 6-8 minutes depending on their size. They need to burst a little. A little color is fine; the main thing is that they should not be dried out.
– Let them sit 5-10 minutes while you swirl the labneh onto a platter.
– When you’re ready, spoon the tomatoes — though try not to include much of the oil — onto the center of the labneh.
– Drizzle them with balsamic glaze then sprinkle the feta, pine nuts, and parsley over the top.
– Heat the pita bread 30-60 seconds in the hot oven to serve alongside.
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