A group of enterprising newcomers is up for a B.C.-wide award for vegan comfort dishes based on their families’ recipes.
Soul Bite Food Inc., a line of frozen appetizers and meals that are vegan and made in Port Coquitlam using traditional Persian and Serbian cooking methods and spices, is a finalist for the Best Immigrant Entrepreneur Award by Small Business BC.
The frozen food line was developed by volunteers with the Coquitlam-based Immigrant Link Centre Society with the help of a grant from the Vancity credit union, which also provided a business coach for the group.
Now available in grocery stores, Soul Bite Food dishes are steeped in history, including a Serbian dish that dates back more than a century, and are filled with tasty yet healthy vegetables, making it easier to be vegan.
The meals and appetizers can be found in the frozen food aisle and include of a dish of roasted bell pepper stuffed with a parsnip, potato and carrot filling; roasted eggplant stuffed with roast vegetables, rice and tahini; and a a vegan cabbage roll derived from a Serbian recipe that is 150 years old, in which delicate cabbage leaves are filled with a mix of rice, sour cabbage and parsley pesto.
There are also two tasty appetizers, including a Balkan recipe that features a mix of leek and mushrooms, wrapped in crispy phyllo, as well as phyllo wrapped smoked eggplant mixed with vegan walnut cheese.
Soul Bite Food Inc. is also a social enterprise, with profits used to support the founding group, Immigrant Link Centre Society, which repurposes still-edible food for local food banks instead of letting grocery stores throw it away.
With volunteers coming from over 15 countries, Immigrant Link, was a finalist in the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce 2021 Business Excellence Awards for Not-for-profit of the Year.
According to the Soul Bite Food Facebook page, you can buy Soul Bite Food products at Stong’s Market, Meinhardt Fine Foods, City Avenue Market, Donalds Market Hastings, BCLocal Root.ca, Pomme Natural Market and Urban Gate.
This year, the Small Business BC Awards received a record number of nominations, a sign of support for local entrepreneurs who endured many challenges this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 937 nominations were received, representing 558 small businesses (some businesses nominated in multiple award categories) in 88 communities across B.C.
Nominations were received from a wide range of industries, from a Vancouver Island-based donut makers to tiny home builders in the Okanagan and a Vancouver charcuterie.
After being nominated, small businesses had until March 8 to gain as many votes as possible from the public. Votes were collected by Small Business BC through their website, and the businesses with the most votes in each category (after a normalization process to allow for regional populations) were narrowed down to the top 20.
The winners of the Small Business BC Awards will be announced over the course of a three-day virtual gala, from May 4 to May 6, 2021. The winners will receive $1,500, a short video shot by a professional film crew of their business, and an all access pass to Small Business BC’s services.