Meet the Entrepreneur Rebelling Against Food Snobs and Giving Ugly Veggies a Chance  

With 'Rebel Soup', Vancouver-based Amanda Slater is making an impact in B.C.'s food industry, one turnip or beet at a time.  

Chances are, you know at least one person – probably that annoyingly A-type coworker – who shudders at the sight of a bruised strawberry, or refuses to go within five feet of a bumpy and lumpy avocado. Well, turns out that being superficial about veggies is actually contributing to the destruction of our planet: every year, local farmers across British Columbia, Canada waste thirty to forty percent of their produce due to harvesting vegetables deemed too ‘ugly’ to be placed on shelves for paying customers. With climate change and greenhouse gas emissions steadily on the rise, there has never been a more important time to take action in mitigating these global concerns.

In comes registered Holistic Nutritionist Amanda Slater. She’s the ‘Soup Lady’ who lives by the healthy rule of producing less waste (which even extends to her beloved Pomeranian Pug, Buddha, who gets first dibs at carrot scraps.) Through her startup, Rebel Soup, she takes as many ‘unpretty’ veggies as she can lay her hands on from farmers to make – you guessed it – soup. Vegetable skins are soaked in water and kept in the freezer to be used as soup stock. Carrot stalks are thrown into the food processor rather than the compost bin, producing a delicious pesto or chimichurri sauce to add a kick to the soups.

But Slater wants to make a difference to both the climate and a person’s day, evidenced by her kooky jar labels like ‘Beauty & The Beet’ and ‘Just In Thyme For Squash’. ‘‘When food is more fun, people are more likely to eat it,’’ she explains. We couldn’t agree more and caught up with Amanda to talk rebellion, hoarding vegetables and making it through the tough times.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Amanda. Why Rebel Soup and not Sensible Soup?

Amanda Slater: When I was thinking of names for Rebel Soup, I considered our mission, the impression I wanted to leave people with and our call to action. ‘Rebel’ came to mind; the idea of standing up for what you believe in, going against the grain and setting your own rules. One of our tag lines is ‘we don’t believe in conventional standards, so we’re creating our own.’ We want to encourage people to stand up for what they believe in, which is often interpreted as being a rebel. #doyouwannabearebel

You work with B.C farmers, buying vegetables that are deemed ‘too unpretty’ for supermarket sale. How much waste would that amount to if it wasn’t for you?

A lot! Thirty to forty percent of a farmers’ crop is deemed unsellable. To date, Rebel Soup has turned over six hundred pounds of ugly vegetables into delicious, vegan soup. In our first month, when broccoli was in season, one farmer said to me: ”Amanda, you can’t take it all.  There is too much for you.” That conversation has stuck with me; I want to take it all! I’m on a mission!

You led a discussion recently for UBC students about being self-employed in the food business. How do you think you impacted their perception of that career path?

I am a very honest person, so I hope I didn’t discourage or scare any of them. At the end of the day, I’m one person and one business with one opinion. If you are passionate about what you are doing, then you just have to go for it—no matter what some crazy, ugly-vegetable-loving lady says.

You did particularly well during the ‘Snowmageddon’ period in Vancouver, delivering soup door to door. Now that it’s summer, how will you keep customers keen on a hearty bowl?

Oh man, that’s the million-dollar question right now. I’m working on partnering with like-minded businesses over the summer and joining markets and pop ups. I’m also working on other seasonal menu items that will make use of summer vegetables. Salads, and maybe gazpacho.

What challenges did you come up against when you opened Rebel Soup last year? 

All kinds. In the first month, I bought way too much produce and some of it went off before I could use it.  I had to learn the hard way what lasted and what didn’t, and how to store different vegetables. When you’re in your first year of business, there’s a new challenge every day. But as long as you surround yourself with a community of like-minded people, you’ll be okay. I feel so fortunate to be supported by so many people who want to help and see Rebel Soup succeed.

Fresh, local, vegan. But what’s your motto outside of work?

Do what you love and what makes you feel good.

Any advice for the awesome girls out there hoping to launch their own ventures?

I say go for it! But make sure you are supported along the way. It’s going to be scary, pull you up and down and challenge you in ways you’ve never experienced. But if you have a good support system, you’ll be ok. And if at any point you think you can’t do it, ask yourself, “Can you go back?” Back to what you were doing before, to whom you were before. If the answer is no, take a deep breath, a day off, go for a walk in nature and get back at it the next day.

Thanks, Amanda.

All photos courtesy of Rebel Soup.