Plant-based chef showcased at Arkansas Children’s Northwest

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 877 views 

Little Rock Alicia Watson.

Little Rock chef Alicia Watson, owner of Vito and Vera, hosted and participated in multiple Northwest Arkansas events as the culinary wellness company starts offering its plant-based meals at Arkansas Children’s Northwest.

On April 15, Watson served tacos, rice and award-winning cheese dip in the family meal for the Cureate Courses participants before the capstone event at Mount Sequoyah Center in Fayetteville. Watson also judged event’s pitch competition, which she won last spring. Two participants received $5,000 at the end of the competition.

Cureate CEO Kim Bryden said the event’s farm-to-table dinner was sold out.

Cureate Courses is funded by Huntsville-based Forge Inc., a revolving loan fund with multiple supporters, including the U.S. Small Business Administration and Walton Family Foundation. Details on Cureate Courses’ fall cohort are expected to be released later this spring.

On April 19, Watson offered samples of Vito’s Deconstructed Lasagna and Big Bertha’s Fat Stack that were served in the cafeteria at Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale to celebrate Earth Day and the launch of Vito and Vera’s meals to go becoming available at the hospital.

“I think it’s life-changing for me as a person,” Watson said. “It’s all I dreamed about because I believe that food is medicine, and I believe in taking care of healthcare workers and patients. I think it’s the road to seeing a plant-based menu available in all the hospitals.”

Arkansas Children’s Northwest is a Cureate Connect client and connected the hospital with Vito and Vera, Bryden said. Cureate Connect sources goods from small businesses to be sold at institutional foodservice operations, such as hospitals, universities and corporations.

Vito and Vera’s Little Rock business comprises meals to go that are delivered throughout central Arkansas. About eight months ago it established a wholesale line that’s allowed its products to become available throughout the state, including at Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op in Fayetteville.

Watson’s next goal is to expand the business to allow for the meals to be available nationwide. Also, the company looks to expand its meals to include mac and cheese made with a plant-based cheese dip that recently took second place in a cheese dip competition.

She noted that Arkansas farms provide all the ingredients for her plant-based meals, which are delivered with an all-electric vehicle. The company has three employees.