How many boxes does your restaurant or food purveyor check off?
Low Carbon Footprint
Flavorful and Delicious Recipes
Farm To Street (local and regenerative sourcing)
Ghost Kitchen (maximized kitchen utilization)
The multi-talented duo at Dank Street Foods in Grand Rapids Michigan have a green and healthy checklist that rivals most businesses. Doe and Dex, like most along the health and healing food supply chain, have a personal history of food and environmental intolerances. The disruption of the restaurant industry in 2020 resulted in a business model that better matched their skill sets, food choices and beliefs culminating in a farm to street restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan called Dank Street.
GFC: How did Dank Street come about?
Doe: We actually have dietary needs and as vegetarians there were not a lot of options to eat sustainable, healthy and meet our dietary needs. We went to Houston, Texas and there were so many options for people who are gluten free, oil free, nut free, vegan, etc. We had so much variety and it inspired us to have something like that back in Western Michigan. In a few short months, we launched Dank Street. More than anything we wanted to offer delicious foods that will attract people seeking healthier options and support those that are vegan and gluten free.
“When we talk about ‘dank food,’ it just means it’s really good. It’s delicious. It makes you stop and go, ‘Mmm, that’s some dank food.’ So we’re Dank Street. You can find some dank food when you come to Dank Street,” - Dex Marzette
GFC: How do you create your menus?
Dex: We cross reference our menus with dietary requirements making it as simple as possible for our customers. We make sure our sources are local as much as possible. It is important for us to get plant-based foods for the health of environment and our bodies. I had been working with New City Farm in Grand Rapids. Their purpose is to have a positive impact on the community and provide job and life skills to youth. That experience had a profound impact on my interest in food. When you work with the vegetables and work with the earth it changes how you feel about food and that is what we wanted to bring to the forefront in the Midwest.
GFC: How did you prepare as a chef?
Doe: I learned early as a teenager about cooking for special diets. I was a vegan and practiced baking gluten-free products. I found it a personal challenge to prepare foods without sacrificing the flavor and learning how to incorporate seasonings and textures. I found foods could taste amazing. I later started cooking in Houston, learning quickly professional skills with fine restaurants. Later, I had an opportunity to work at Vibrant, headed by Patti Delgado who took me under her wing crafting local and gluten free foods. I returned to Michigan and am excited to learn and grow in this whole new culture in culinary.
We present to you DANK STREET, the 100% Vegan & Gluten free Ghost Kitchen! We are a proud BIPOC owned business that values "Farm-to-Street" sourcing and culinary expression. Here, quality is never compromised and flavor comes first. We pride ourselves on a rotating weekly menu that's inspired by seasonal harvests. Street Food to us means real food. What the locals eat. Food that makes you lick your fingers. No reservations or limitations. Just real, dank food. -Dex & Doe
GFC: How does your ghost kitchen/farm-to-table business model work?
Dex: We tried to design Dank Street to be flexible. We took the year (2020) to observe who sank and swam. what was working, what consumers were doing and the timing worked out in our favor. I tried to make it pandemic proof or at least pandemic survivable. We operate in a shared kitchen as a ghost kitchen where we pay for the time we use. We kept our business process lean. We are Millennials.-Gen Z Cuspers.* "No phone orders" We like to text, we like on-line orders so that we can focus on the meal preparation. It makes it work.
We rotate the meals weekly for a couple reasons. We see the faux meats and the same vegan recipes from the 1990's. seeing the same classics of the vegan restaurants. We wanted to bring forward something new that our customers can enjoy. We also use it as beta items to build upon a larger menu.
Our next phase will be a mobile food trailer with more flexibility and accessibility than our current two days a week. Customers want greater access and we knew that is what we'd run into the first year to make it manageable . We will continue with the same principals, rotating menus and a lay of the land from our farms, which governs what we do. Whatever is available from farms we utilize and is what limits or formulates our menus.
We do some catering and hope to execute food on the spot as we grow. The ghost kitchen gave us flexibility. There are new awesome opportunities in the city of Grand Rapids for food entrepreneurs to engage with food hubs - permitting us be moveable and transformable as possible. The ghost kitchen has been a safe process for least amount of contact for the past year.
GFC: Who are your customers?
Doe: Our clientele is diverse. Our regulars are in their late 20's and 30's and include families that love the food for entire family meals. We also see festival goers, college students, professors, business professionals - it is a wide array. Approximately 60% to 70% have dietary restrictions and are interested because of the food we serve. Many are captivated by our branding - Dank Street. They come for the branding and stay for the food. People like indulgent recipes and a nice hearty salad so we frequently offer both, which makes our customers happy to have the options or alternate.
GFC: Where do you see yourself fitting into a food health map?
We will be reliant on social media and word of mouth to get on the map. We intend to be places where we can be seen like participating more in farmers markets. A few vegan groups have reached out to engage us in their communities. We fully expect to be on the road to widen our audiences in Detroit, Lansing and the Grand Rapids area for a larger following. Our local sourcing allows us to collaborate with our suppliers and cross-sell our services. We cross post and tag them and visa versa on social media platforms.
GFC: How would you like to collaborate with the food and health supply chain?
Doe: We would like to meet them and first invite them to try our food in Grand Rapids. We are a healthier alternative and would like to share our story and learn theirs. That can serve as the conversation that leads to connections. Of course, every share, like and retweet on social media helps! Another program we'd like to consider is teaching via zoom or such making some of our favorite Dank Street recipes. We'd welcome collaboration with the food and health communities in doing so and/or discussing other food preparation collaborations.
Dex: We will be doing a lot of planning as the fresh produce becomes unavailable and we close for the season. Preparing for a trailer next season will open up new opportunities and in the meantime, we will be getting some Dank Street merchandise to sell. There are some local grants available to support growing our business that we will be exploring and welcome alternatives for new businesses in the new culinary culture of blending environment, community, health and fun!
Dank Street Proprietors/Talent: Dorian Vonrossum (Doe) and Dexter Marzette (Dex)
Dank Street Website https://www.dankstreetfood.com/
More on Dank Street and their 2021 Grand Opening here.
*born on the cusp between two significant generations.