Zen Paul will tell you she wasn’t able to fry an egg until she was 14 years old.
“I understood that cooking food for someone was a true expression of love,” Paul said. “The memories of my maternal grandparents who cooked every weeknight showed me that food was hope. Those meals were a sure thing, calming many family troubles.”
Paul is originally from Washington D.C., but she now calls Tampa her home. She became a vegan at age 22, which forced her to cook to sustain her life.
“Coming from a long line of cooks, I knew I had to bring out the grace and gratitude of my family’s flavors,” Paul said. “I relocated to Tampa after visiting a few times, but something I could never understand was why there was an obvious lack of food and resources while so many people were living lavishly. I wanted to create a solution and take nothing away from people who were already thriving, eating and living, but add to those who were down on their luck.”
Seeing those who were in need or food insecure made her want to give back to her new home and community.
“This is where Chozen Foods was born,” Paul said. “I have been down and needed a simple act of kindness, and it was nowhere to be found. If I can create a solution without asking anything extra from people in a time where we are all doing our best, maybe I can show that love is all around us and not limited to transactions and affordability.”
Chozen Foods’ goal is to provide a local sustainable food system that revolutionizes how people invest in their community without compromising their lives.
“We offer contemporary casual takeout and dine-in, highlighting vegan cuisine with flavors that celebrate life,” Paul said. “At Chozen Foods, we understand that food is much more than a few forkfuls but can be compassion, self-love and hope. Our mobile and laundry services will also support those in need when you choose to eat with us.”
Chozen Foods has been a part of many local artisan markets in the Brandon area.
“This work, feeding people, nurturing and loving on people through food, is a spiritual work,” Paul said. “I really enjoy preparing my dishes, ones that have memories of patrons dancing at the first bite or closing their eyes while eating my pineapple upside-down cake. Cooking for others is such a blessing, being able to feed people who are experiencing food insecurity and even people who may be newly homeless.”
Chozen Foods can be found at Winthrop Pop Up Market and other markets in Brandon. If you’d like to learn more about Chozen Foods, you can visit its website at www.chozenkitchen.com.