Raised by immigrant parents in the U.S., Jessica Gebel grew up on whole, organic food, and later leveraged her culinary skills to create Fabalish: a brand that merges her love of cooking and flavors with the whole food mindset she experienced at home. Today, Fabalish offers plant-based dips and foods that harness the power of aquafaba, or chickpea water, for plant-based eaters and flexitarians alike.
Why is it important for you to use clean and organic ingredients?
Jessica Gebel: There is a lot wrong with our food system today. Consumer packaged foods are just way over processed. They're oftentimes loaded with preservatives, fillers, "natural flavors" and other synthetic ingredients—and that's just what's on the label! We really know little about the artificial processing agents, pesticides and chemical fertilizers used in growing and preparing our foods. Going organic is a huge step in reducing if not eliminating all of this!
Why did you choose to get USDA Organic certified?
JG: Going through the organic certification process opened our eyes to the amount of controls in place to ensure the product is truly organic. Of course, no system or certification is perfect, but it's way better than not doing anything. By getting the USDA Certification, we're letting consumers know they're really getting a cleaner product. My dream is to be a staple in everyone’s home. When a consumer sees Fabalish, they trust that we’ll deliver on flavor, quality and purpose.
How did you come to create Fabalish?
JG: I never really paid attention to diet until I had debilitating health issues in my early twenties. I was prescribed various drugs and steroids, but nothing really worked. I knew there had to be more. Long story short, changing the way I eat changed my life. Removing all the processed foods, unnatural preservatives and harmful ingredients and eating cleaner, organic and more plant-based made all the difference.
However, having enjoyed the comfort foods of my youth, I was determined to cook healthy and delicious. Cooking like this is an art, and I became so passionate about it. I found a way to afford my dream culinary school, the Natural Gourmet Institute, by winning a cash prize on the Food Network as an amateur chef.
On the show, one of the dishes I had to prepare was a sloppy joe. I proved to the judges that you can cook healthier while delivering on that classic dish. After graduation, I was a private chef for families with dietary restrictions and that’s where I started working with aquafaba. They loved my creations, and so I wanted to do more! I started selling my foods at farmers markets and the response was amazing. But I wanted to take it even further and reach even more people, and that’s when Fabalish was born.
What’s your biggest hurdle as a brand?
JG: In building Fabalish, we always face the challenge of creating clean products that can compete in the consumer packaged foods world (where products are engineered to have a long shelf life and to be low cost). We like to say our products are proudly perishable, and although the price of our products is on the higher end, we believe that you're paying the extra for your health. As the old adage goes, you are what you eat! Consumers are looking for better foods, and they're willing to pay more. We're focusing on those consumers as we grow.
How did being born to immigrants help or challenge you in your journey?
JG: It was both a help and a challenge! My parents were both immigrants, and were working several jobs at a time to make ends meet. My siblings and I had to fend for ourselves while they were at work, and this meant lots of fast food and TV dinners growing up. However, they also introduced me to real, home cooking whenever they could. I saw two worlds: fast food and "slow" food. In the end it was all meant to happen this way. I'm so grateful for every moment along the journey because it led me to where I am today.
What does it mean to you to be a first generation immigrant brand owner, especially operating in the organic space?
JG: I'm so grateful to have grown up in the U.S., and for all the opportunities this amazing country has given me. My parents gave me the opportunity to be raised in America and be able to create such a badass wonderful business the way I want to!
Fabalish is about giving back to the community, and being part of the solution for a better world. We need a better food system! I'm so proud to be able to create healthier, sustainable foods that give consumers the options they are looking for. I'm very proud of my Polish stubbornness and sticking to my beliefs. My parents grew up on "organic" but it was never called that, everything just was organic naturally as everything should be. I want my children to live in a world where we don't need to fight to eat real, natural, clean foods—it's just everyone's right!