Business Food

Chef offers specialized meal choices

Gluten-free, vegan, allergy sensitive.

Jenn Kraus has the combinations down.

The Aiken resident and owner of Uprooted Vegan Cuisine has spent more than 20 years catering to dietary needs —  starting with those of her daughter.

“My daughter had 20 food allergies when she was 4. She’s now 25. I learned the process of cooking for her,” said Kraus.

Food — its preparation and service — has been part of Kraus’s life since she was 10 when her father, who owned two convenience stores, put her in charge of the chocolate dipped bananas and soft-serve ice cream.

Her daughter’s sport of choice was rowing, and Kraus also received food training as she served dozens of people every weekend during rowing events when her daughter was growing up.

“We had a food tent with 120 rowers and their families for 10 straight seasons. It was on site, from a grill, under a tent, next to a river. We had to feed everyone — meat eaters, vegans, several with allergies — all weekend. I had to learn how to fly by the seat of my pants and make it work,” she said.

She’s also managed coffee houses and worked for hotels as well as getting three college degrees including one in speech therapy. Kraus helps children three days a week and prepares meals and caters the rest of the time.

People can order her meals at her website, and she offers several different pick-up options such as the OPP Kitchen in Martinez as well as spots in Aiken and North Augusta. The OPP Kitchen is the location where she prepares the food and sometimes offers cooking classes.

She had a food truck, but it’s currently out of commission with a broken axle. She called the converted horse trailer “Juniper,” and she hopes to get it back on the road again soon.

Her ready-made meal business was born during the pandemic.

“People were looking for food and didn’t want to start cooking for themselves,” she said. “I started with one meal on one single Facebook page.”

Now, she offers four main courses with six side dish options a week as well as dessert items and custom options.

“They are already gluten free and vegan,” she said. “I offer allergy-friendly cooking. One customer has given me her entire allergy battery and said ‘this is what I can’t eat. I need savory and a couple of sweets.”

She also offers cooking classes and is gearing up for her first Masters week as a personal chef.

Kraus went vegan about 14 years ago. She and her daughter decided to start over the summer of 2010. Not only did they opt for a plant-based menu, but they decided they would only eat food they could get at the farmer’s market.

She believes that change made a positive impact on her health.

“I was already six years into renal failure…,” she said. “My kidney numbers adjusted. I went eight years without needing dialysis. I did have 17 months of dialysis and I’m four years post-transplant.”

Kraus said she enjoys experimenting with food. A recent menu item was carrot lox, which when it was finished tasted like salmon, she said.

Her menu changes every week. She works with local farmers, and when they have an excess of an item, she finds herself searching for creative ways to make dishes. She recently had a grower give her kohlrabi telling her that “no one knows what to do with it but you,” she said. “It surprises me what people are willing to order. I like to throw weird things out there.”

One of her most-requested meals is the compost plate, which is a play on a popular “garbage plate” dish from her native Rochester, N.Y. The original dish has items such as macaroni and cheese, baked beans, potatoes, a hot dog or burger.

Hers, which is called compost because it’s plant-based, has items such as a creamy macaroni salad, smokehouse baked beans, a chunky hot sauce and a roasted carrot dog.

 While her dishes are specialized, she said that not all of her customers are vegan; they just like the convenience and the taste.

 “People want variety. They want the convenience of having a meal made and not going through a drive-thru,” she said.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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