Rua Francis is a mother, artist and, most recently a chef and founder of the plant-based pop-up series, Planthropie. She also makes food that tastes as beautiful as it looks—and leaves you feeling as good as it tastes. Her creations run the gamut from sweet to savory, but she may be most known for her cheese.
Shortly after the opening of Moby’s vegan restaurant in LA, Little Pine, I heard an interview where he repeated over—and over—that he was most excited about nailing the fake cheese formula. And he’s right: the cheese at Little Pine is delicious.
I have tasted Planthropie’s cheese, and it may taste better than Moby’s.
The Planthropie experience is uniquely rich. Rua’s events are colorful, bountiful feasts— her spreads, equal parts dinner party and altar are a gathering and celebration of nature’s gifts. Her own plant based adventures began when she discovered her newborn’s dairy allergy. Faced with a challenge, the artist took to the kitchen and came forth with abundance.
Planthropie recently hosted a “Dessert for Dinner” tasting experience at the Detroit Foundation Hotel. Their next event is, Cakes over Dates, a Valentine’s Day brunch at Tribe Detroit this Sunday, February 10th.
We sat down with the Rua to talk origin, art and flavor.
CV Henriette: What is Planthropie?
Rua Francis: We’re a plant based pop-up creating raw desserts and handcrafted non-dairy cheeses. We curate sensory experiences with a revolving Mediterranean inspired menu.
CVh: What’s the name about?
RF: The name was born from plant + philanthropy combined. To plant good using food to raise awareness for conscious and sustainable living and its health impact. Food is an intimate thing we do with our body, we become one with what we eat, so we choose food that fuels.
CVh: How’d you start?
RF: Planthropie was born from our family’s need for quality, delicious and healthy plant based options. My husband and I fully transitioned to plant based eating shortly after we discovered our newborn was severely allergic to dairy. This sparked my Planthropie mission to create alternatives that my son can enjoy from healthy desserts to dairy free cheese. Planthropie is where I combine my background in preventative healthcare, love for food and artistry all while working with my family!
CVh: What’s the inspiration to keep going?
RF: Innovating and developing solutions and healthier alternatives without sacrificing flavor and quality. The mission is to spread the word and show the world that you can still indulge while nourishing and fueling your body.
CVh: Coming from Iraq, what most surprised you about the American diet?
RF: It was a culture shock. Growing up under embargo we learned to self-sustain, grow our own food using organic practices and cook everything from scratch. I grew up eating and juicing fresh fruits and vegetables my mom cooked on the daily. Always fresh flavorful food. The American diet is very product oriented, numbers driven, lacking a deep and necessary connection and harmony with nature and where our food comes from. Something we really need to address and resolve.
CVh: What’s the relationship between Planthropie and your fine art practice? Do they influence each other?
RF: Absolutely! Planthropie is edible art. I channel my artistry through the flavors, colors and presentation. Food is the medium where I express in bursts of color unlike my monochromatic artwork where I only work with black ink. My expression is evolving and I’m inspired to use food and plant derived colors in a future art project.
CVh: Advice to someone considering veganism?
RF: Educate yourself, define why you’re doing it, and simplify your food. The label may intimidate people; but when stripping away labels, it truly becomes a way of life. It is humbling yet empowering to be conscious of how our actions and food choices impact our health, other beings, and the planet.
CVh: Words to anyone hesitant to try “fake cheese?”
RF: Being a former cheese connoisseur, the cheese we make is cheese in every aspect except it’s dairy free, derived from plants instead of animals. We use the science of traditional cheesemaking but in a new medium, instead of dairy.
For me, cheese was the hardest food to give up, so I poured all my past cheese addiction into creating delicious alternatives that are healthier and kinder. Quality plant based cheese is so good minus the cholesterol and dairy “hangover.” Your heart will thank you for it!
Amazing plant based cheesemakers out there are revolutionizing the industry, it’s beautiful to be a part of and witness.
CVh: What’s next?
RF: We’re working on exciting projects, not much we can reveal right now but all I can say is stay tuned! Catch me and my sister at V313 Detroit at the Eastern Market in March and more!