Relishing the Journey: Vegan Pop-up Relish Co. Finds a Permanent Home in Bloomfield
By Matthew Hacke
Beginning as a vegan food pop-up over a year ago, Relish Co. has captivated the tastebuds of Pittsburgh foodies with its array of sweet and savory offerings. From delectable doughnuts in a variety of seasonal flavors, to scrumptious “chik’n" and waffle sandwiches — topped with sriracha mayo, no less! — these tasty assortments have been popping up all over the city thanks to founder and vegan cuisine connoisseur Abbigail Hansel.
Her passion and love for the culinary arts began at a young age. “I grew up in a family that was obsessed with food, so I'm obsessed with cooking and could always be found in the kitchen,” she says. During her teen years, Hansel pursued jobs primarily in the hospitality and food service industries, where she continued to hone in on her culinary training and skills. “For over a decade, I’ve done a little bit of everything — management, front of the house, back of the house, bartending, barista, waitressing, and hostessing, just to name a few.”
After settling in Pittsburgh seven years ago for school, the 27-year-old continued to take up odd jobs in the aforementioned industries, but found herself stuck at a certain point. “There comes a point when you just kind of stop being able to move up and you stop being able to get certain responsibilities you were hoping for,” Hansel continues. “So, you kind of have to make your own opportunities, and that’s how Relish Co. happened.”
The first step in her new venture, determining the type of cuisine, was an easy one. “I'm vegan and am big on not harming animals to get good food,” she says. “I'd rather have everything I make be cruelty free and still just as good as the real thing.”
The name of the establishment took a little more time and thought, but don’t confuse it’s meaning with the pickle-based condiment. “‘Relish,’ in every other place except the United States, means a lot of different things,” continues Hansel. “A lot of people think we specialize in the condiment when they first hear about us. But you won’t find it on the menu.”
Instead, the “relish” that Relish Co. associates its meaning with is to “enjoy or savor something.”
For a little over a year, Relish Co. has invited foodies to savor its extensive menu of seasonal fare and locally sourced ingredients. And as the pop-up and wholesale business’ popularity continues to rise, Hansel and her team are finding their niche in the Pittsburgh foodie community. At first, the eatery heavily advertised its menu as “vegan” and included the term alongside every item listed. “We eventually removed the word, just as an experiment to see what would happen, and people didn’t notice the difference,” she continues. All they notice is the delicious, high-quality meals.
Along with the wording on the menu, Hansel is also changing specific menu items to stay synchronized with the seasons. “I would love to incorporate more seasonal fruit, like citrus, into [our winter] dishes. Citrus is in season in winter, but people don't usually recognize that as they tend to associate it more with summer,” Hansel says. “There will probably be a lot more interesting doughnut flavors as we get more into winter as well — particularly something with gingerbread because I love gingerbread, but I’m so bad at telling people these things ahead of time because I often don't know until the day of.”
One thing Hansel is certain of is that Relish Co. will be opening a brick-and-mortar location in Bloomfield by the end of 2017. “We’re still in the process of getting things together, so I don’t have an official opening date, but within the next month is the goal,” Hansel says. “Fingers crossed.”
Needless to say, Hansel, her team, and her devoted Pittsburgh following can’t wait. “This has always been a dream of mine, and the fact that I finally own my own business, have my own kitchen, and can create my own menu is amazing. It’s a lot of work, but it’s truly gratifying to create food that makes people happy.”
Relish Co. relishpittsburgh.com.