Julie Frans

In what part of town do you live?
Miami Beach.

How long have you lived in the area?
Nine years, in different parts of Miami Beach.

Where are you from and what brought you here?
We’re from California, from San Diego, we came for a change of lifestyle and Robbie had a job here. We only thought we would be here for two years and we’ve been here for eight and a half.

Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I started out my culinary career on yachts. After college, I traveled extensively around the world doing a lot of diving, cooking, and exploring. I fell in love with travel and then ended up landing a job back in California as a dive yacht chef. I was able to dive and cook and learn. I ended up traveling more on yachts of all different scales and making my way around the world. So, I really learned a lot about sourcing, farm to table, and using ingredients according to where I was and what the ethnic diversity offered. I learned a lot about different spices and herbs and cuisines.

From yachting, what brought you back to San Diego?
My last job was in Alaska, and I decided to go back home to San Diego and start my own company doing dinner parties and personal chef services. I took everything that I learned, including a college degree in English, and drafted up this imaginary business and turned it into a real thing. I continued to grow and take on more chefs. Robbie was my first real real chef that I took on and he was able to split responsibilities with me. We started dating and ended up getting married and had two kids.

Since getting to Miami, you’ve been very active bringing awareness to our local farm to table movement. Would you share about that journey?
When I got to Miami, I was offered a job at the Palms hotel, which was just the right fit for me. It was a part time job and I could be a mom, as I had planned. The farm to table movement was really part of my passion and the culture that I had developed in my own culinary career. I ended up working for the Palms for four years and then doing some consulting with other restaurants, brands, and food festivals, and helped develop the SEED Food and Wine festival. Then, I met Della when I was taking her on a trip to your farm, doing farm to table education for industry people. I fell in love with her concept and project and hopped on board with her as a consultant and then about a year and half later went on full time and helped grow the Wynwood Yard brand and Della Bowls.

Miami’s connection between farms and restaurants was very limited when you got here, how did you overcome those barriers?
As you know, it’s understanding the importance of the local community building aspect. When I got the job at the Palms, I said that I didn’t even want to start developing any menus or recipes until I had a full grasp of how Miami seasons work and what grows here. It was October when we moved here and by November, I was visiting all the farms and finding out what would be growing at different times. I also insisted that we start our own garden in the back of the Palms. I wanted to share that and continue to grow with the farms, so I got involved in Slow Food and taking other chefs and industry leaders to the farms. I always found it such a shame that we have such unique and special things that grow in Miami, that don’t grow other places, and yet they’re not being used by the most talented chefs here. It’s simply because there’s a lack of knowledge and connections with the farmers.

You mentioned Slow Food and the SEED festival. Would you give us a description of what they are?
Slow Food, at its heart, is an organization that fund raises and implements school gardens. But, it’s really all encompassing in the community in promoting farm to table, local sourcing, and conscious dining and cooking. Seed Food and Wine festival is a plant based festival at it’s core. But actually, it’s a year round program that communicates plant based eating and lifestyle.

Would you share about growing Della Bowls and how the concept of Wynwood Yard was created?
Della was a Harvard business major, and Della Bowls was part of her thesis. Her idea was to make healthy plant based food more accessible. She wanted to create a fast casual concept. She set out in Miami and looked at a hundred places and realized that the barriers for entry were so high that it didn’t make sense for any small business to go into a brick and mortar and pay millions of dollars for the build out – having not tested the concept at all and even know if the community was ready for it. She was not the only one facing the same barriers. She had an idea to create a space for entrepreneurs to be able to test their concepts in a way that was more realistic and feasible for them. She created Wynwood Yard, not as a food truck yard, but as an entrepreneurial incubator. The idea was to have a very curated, specific group of highly professional entrepreneurs, using food trucks to test their concepts and rise to the next level.

We were sad to see Wynwood Yard close. Is the Doral Yard project going forward?
Actually, it is ready to open the doors right now. We were poised to open the very week that everything shut down. The Yard brand, as a whole, is about bringing people together so this is a very difficult time right now. We’re definitely not going to open until we feel it’s safe for the community.

You all have been to our drive-through store several times. What’s that experience been like?
I love being on your farm, and thought we were going to your farm and then we ended up at a surprise warehouse in an industrial area. You did such a great job of setting it up in a way that makes people feel really comfortable. At that time when we started coming, it was when we were wiping everything down and everything was so unpredictable and we just didn’t know what was going to happen. When we saw the way that you treated the situation, where you gave so much distance and had your masks on and there was no exchange and everything was set out on a table, we immediately felt at home. And, we could really tell the world about what you were doing and feel comfortable that everybody could go there and feel comfortable too. I give you kudos for transitioning in that way and providing the experience. And then the Rainbow smoothies speak for themselves. They’re so beautiful. Each layer has so much character and so much love and thought put into it. We got smalls the first time and we were all so sad. We’ve gotten larges ever since. It’s definitely a drive from the Beach, but you mention rainbow smoothies and the kids are in the car in a second.

What other places during this time have you found to order food from or to shop at?
Every time we go down to you guys, we also go to Teena’s Pride. It’s been really fun to reconnect with them and see them every week. We make a few random stops here and there, like a little Jamaican market and got conch salad one time. At the beginning of the quarantine, we did a big order from Dasher and Crank to fill our freezers with ice cream.

What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
I would say, Della.

What’s a worthy splurge?
Food and good drinks. I’ll spend on experiences, but I don’t spend it on clothes or shoes or anything. That’s not my style, but food for sure.

Where’s the most romantic spot in Miami?
Boating out to the islands in the Bay.

What community groups or philanthropic groups might or that are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
Common ThreadsThe Education FundDebris Free OceansSurfrider,

Is there a pitch about one of your projects that you might like to share?
For Della Bowls, one of the silver linings that’s come out of this whole thing, is that I’ve been able to reach a new audience in a new way that I didn’t ever think of. I thought we always had to be face to face and in person and doing classes for people in audiences. I’ve been doing weekly classes online and through YouTube Live and we’ve been able to really grow our community. We’re not just teaching about Della Bowls recipes, but plant based eating, local sourcing, cooking in your own home, and how to be creative with the ingredients you have and how to set up your kitchen. It’s been a really fun learning experience for me and also a great way to fund raise for organizations too.

Is there a question would you like to ask us?
(JF) Will you be selling whole fruit at your stand besides the smoothies anytime soon?

(A+W) We will have fruit again in the next couple weeks. Most of our fruits are harvested in the summer time. Jackfruit is in season now, longans are coming soon, and our Avocados are a couple months away.

Is there a challenge or question that you would like to pose to the community?
I think we’ve uncovered some special gems, habits, and hobbies during this time. A lot of people are turning to local farms, local companies, and local restaurants more than ever to support them. I hope that, as we resume a new normal, we keep these connections.

One other question, last week we learned from Robbie, that you met at a farm stand. He said you picked up a celery root and asked him what it was. We asked Robbie for one question to ask you, and he said: Did you actually know what the celery root was when you asked him?
No I did not. And, I was excited to talk to a chef that seemed to know what he was talking about.