CONVERSATION / Moon & Back Bakery

"Overnight, my husband and I adopted a plant-based diet. The results were mind-blowing. I have since run two half-marathons and have been medicine-free for nearly 10 years. Experiencing first-hand the miraculous effect food can have on our bodies led me down the road I’m on now."

Marissa Provence  founder and owner of Moon & Back Bakery – on raw, vegan baking and how her diagnosis of NMO encouraged her to live a plant-based life.

How would you describe yourself professionally?

My name is Marissa Provence. I’m a raw, vegan chef from San Diego that trained in Buenos Aires and New York. I recently moved from Brooklyn to Seattle and founded Moon & Back Bakery. Our goods are raw, vegan and organic.

Do you follow a raw and vegan diet in your daily life?  

Years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO). One morning, I woke up paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors thought it highly unlikely I would ever walk again. What followed was a two-year period in which I underwent several medical procedures and extensive physical therapy. I stumbled upon The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, which contains a chapter on the benefits that plant-based diets have on autoimmune disorders.

Overnight, my husband and I adopted a plant-based diet. The results were mind-blowing. I have since run two half-marathons and have been medicine-free for nearly 10 years. Experiencing first-hand the miraculous effect food can have on our bodies led me down the road I’m on now.

That’s wild. I imagine the transition may have seemed daunting at first? Plant-based options didn’t use to be as readily available as they are now. 

It was. At the time, there were no vegan restaurants and very few vegan dishes to be found. I quickly realized the path forward was on me. I have a BIG sweet tooth and given the lack of options, I began making my own desserts. In a stroke of luck, I found an American chef and started taking private cooking classes. Food became my passion during that year, and I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life.

I discovered the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. My husband and I immediately relocated and I’ve been in the food scene ever since.

As you started experimenting with “raw” baking, did you experience any mixed reactions to the term?

Outside of New York and Los Angeles, the understanding of “raw” cooking is fairly low. People equate “raw” with sushi and are often confused. Even though our goods are considered “raw”, we do actually cook them. It’s just at a very low temperature – below 118º  they can take up to three days to make!

I hate even saying the word but I do love giving people my brownies and not telling them. (wink)

Are you and your company taking any steps to educate your consumers? 

We do everything we can to make sure all of our ingredients are fair-trade, organic, non-GMO and locally-sourced when available. We’ve been exploring the best way to inform our customers on where our ingredients come from, including devoting part of our site to our network of suppliers.

We also include a postcard in every order. The paper comes from trees harvested under the Sustainable Forest Initiative. A waterless printing technique is used as opposed to using toxic chemicals commonly found at the majority of print studios. We decided to add that fact on our actual postcards as a means to educate others.

Companies, since they are made up of people, have a huge responsibility to provide their neighbors on this planet with products that make lives better.

Is there someone in the industry that has served as a mentor or inspired you during your career?

Jana Keith-Jennings and T. Colin Campbell.

Jana was one of my first employers not long after I started my career in food. She’s now not only a mentor but one of my best friends. One of the most talented people I know, she accomplishes so much and on only a few hours of sleep! Her pastries are amazing. She’s also a great listener and gives good advice. And she’s a sculptor!

T. Colin Campbell is an inspiration. I’d love to thank him for his work and to share what it has meant to me. I’m fascinated by his approach to nutrition and would love to deepen my education.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

I was working the pastry line at Pure Food and Wine on a particularly intense night and really struggling to keep up with tickets. The chef next to me just looked over and said, “the good thing is that it has to end”. Whether it’s a bad day, or a difficult run, or anything else that seems too difficult to overcome, it has to end. You will get through it.

Where do you see your company in the next five years?

I’m hoping Moon & Back Bakery will be very successful and have a few retail stores open. Having one in Seattle and another in New York would be great!

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