Meet the Founders
For Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon their focus on local, seasonal vegetables not only strengthened their friendship, but also heightened their passion for building a business around food. With Bettina’s past experience in editorial publishing, coupled with Suzanne’s expertise in environmental sciences and consulting, they saw an opportunity and decided to target it. In 2009 they began their journey in their own kitchens where they posted seasonal recipes on their home cooking blog (loulies.com). Determined to share with a larger community, they decided to bring their delicious food to the people - what better way than at a farmer’s market? Suzanne and Bettina set up a 10x10-foot tent at the Freshfarm Market by the White House and provided the community with tasty tacos all made with local and seasonal vegetables.
Almost one year ago (November 2015), Chaia transformed from a tent set-up at the market to a brick-and-mortar shop in historic Georgetown. They both agree: growing Chaia has been the best experience, resulting in extending good food, local farm relationships, seasonality, sustainability and warmth to you.
Chaia Chatter with Bettina & Suzanne as told to Amanda Bertholf, a Chaia team member:
1. If your best friend was talking to me, what would they say is the best part about being your friend?
Bettina: "She is adventurous and will go anywhere and try almost anything. She doesn’t see the future as a fixed destination, but rather as a place that she can create out of the choices that she makes.”
Suzanne: “Loyal and a big heart.”
2. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
Bettina: “One of my parents dogs. They literally have the best life in the world - it’s pretty much all fun and games for them all of the time.”
Suzanne: “Our dog Beaumont - he is so spoiled and lives a great life.”
3. What has the most satisfying moment in your life been?
Bettina: “Birthing this business; it has been exciting, rewarding, and very hard work.”
Suzanne: “Raising a family and opening Chaia!”
4. What types of hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
Bettina: “If playing outside were a hobby - then sign me up. Running, hiking, backpacking, swimming, kayaking and traveling…physical activities done in the wide open.”
Suzanne: “Yoga, travel, beach, swimming, antiques and consignment stores.”
5. If you could meet a celebrity, who would it be and why?
Bettina: “The famous people who intrigue me the most are those that have retained their integrity, their values, and their kindness towards others while creating or accomplishing amazing things, including: Paul Newman, Warren Buffett, Michelle Obama, Danny Meyer, and Maya Lin, to name a few.”
Suzanne: “Stella McCartney - I love her style and she is a vegetarian so I would love to get her hooked on Chaia.”
6. Do you have a favorite sports team?
Bettina: “Both the US Men’s and Women’s National Soccer teams. Rooting for the ‘home team’.“
Suzanne: “No not now, but I do love football season.”
7. Who is your role model and why?
Bettina: “My husband Chris. He has shown me what true, unconditional love means.”
Suzanne: “Probably my Mom, she has been through a lot in her life and still has such a positive attitude and sweetness about her. I am so thankful she taught me to be independent, self-sufficient and confident “
8. If we are sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it has been for you and Chaia, what did we achieve together?
Bettina: “The learning curve creating Chaia has been so steep! Mix theoretical and practical frameworks that are taught in business school with real-world problems such as: how to network, how to find customers, how to hire, and how to fix a major plumbing problem- pronto. I’m very proud of our accomplishments to date.”
Suzanne: “We have built so many incredible relationships and friendships.”
9. What is your favorite thing to cook for others?
Bettina: “My favorite meal to make for anyone, including myself, includes grilled, freshly-caught bluefish. Every fiber in my body feels energized if this is what I’m able to serve to a crowd of any size; it means I’m in the right place at the right time. It almost always mean that I’m surrounded by the people that I love most, including my three gorgeous sons.”
Suzanne: “For others and myself - We call it the "best cauliflower ever" it is stewed and mashed with tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan. It is so good.“
9a. For yourself?
Bettina: “Summer tomatoes are the one summer crop that I can’t get enough of. Slicing an heirloom variety, adding Hellman’s mayo and fresh basil for a lunch sandwich is my favorite treat.”
Suzanne: “Best Cauliflower Ever”
10. What is your favorite flower?
Bettina: “Dahlias - insanely gorgeous specimens in all manner of vibrant colors, shapes and sizes, with pretty textures and beautiful petal formations.“
11. What is your favorite movie?
Bettina: “The Graduate. It has always seemed to me an artistic stroke of genius. I’ve seen it so many times.”
Suzanne: “The Royal Tenenbaums. Every time I watch it, I relate to it in a different way.”
12. What is your favorite book?
Bettina: “Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. It’s a remarkable story of four generations of an American family To me it is a mesmerizing tale. When I fantasize about going back in time, I would love to have been a West Coast pioneer.”
Suzanne: “Mildred Pierce by James Cain - I love a book that I start reading and just can’t put down.”