Black History Month Continues with CROPEATS Founder and CEO Michelle Samuel Interview

Friday February 18, 2022

Last week’s Triangle Times highlighted the historically significant churches that continue to shape and influence our community. This week, we are highlighting Michelle Samuel, Founder and CEO of CROPEATS, a weekly vendor at our FRESHFARM MVT Market. Below is our full interview:

To begin, what can you tell us about yourself and your business, CROPEATS?

I am a naturalized citizen of the United States. I am originally from the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and I am of Carib heritage. I am a former model; I am a dreamer; I am an inventor; I am a crop-based™ culinarian and a Chemical Engineer turned Foodpreneur. I have a master’s in engineering with a research background in Product Engineering and Product development. My area of specialization is Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) technology, and I have worked as a research lead for a patented DAF water/wastewater treatment system. Most of all, I am a graduate of the illustrious Howard University where I obtained my BSc in Chemical Engineering and MEng in Civil Engineering.

I am Founder and CEO of CROPEATS™, a certified Minority Woman-Owned business established in 2019. The business was launched with a line of vegan (plant-based) breakfast/dessert muffins in 2021 at FreshFarmDC Mount Vernon Triangle farmer’s market. I am a self-made baker and have mastered the art of plant-based baking, that’s both nutrient-dense and flavorful. I had my rights of passage at the age of 9 when my mother first introduced me to the kitchen (I thought that she was lost her mind). I had been cooking and experimenting with food ever since. I am a veteran vegan, and first considered an alternative diet somewhere between the age of 12 or 13 when I had a traumatic experience with chicken wings. Through the years, I have been drawing and building on the cooking and baking techniques passed down by my mother. However, none of this would be possible had it not been for the excellent education that I received from Howard University.

What impact do you see African American business owners like yourself having on Mount Vernon Triangle?

People are always looking for something new and exciting, and they are always willing to try something different. I think businesses like mine would provide a unique mixed cross-cultural food experience.

How do you feel your presence in the vegan culinary space impacts the publics’ view of African Americans in the culinary community?

While as a student at Howard University in the late 90’s early 20’s there was Soul Vegetarian restaurant across the street from the business school on Georgia Avenue. It was an African American run business by a spiritual group called the African Hebrew Israelites. As an already practicing vegan, I was naturally drawn to this group and later became a member. They ran a full buffet Sunday brunch where I worked on alternating Sundays as the head cook and team manager with no prior training – and pulled it off. My presence in the vegan culinary space is well placed as I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in veganism. This would bring a sense of pride to African Americans, and it would also have a positive impact on the public’s view of African Americans in the culinary community.

How do you see your business and your success helping members of the African American community expand into new spaces that they haven’t felt represented previously?

I hope that mine would encourage others to take risks, to take ownership of their own, and that it would serve as an example, and a source of inspiration to others.

What does Black History Month mean to you, and how do you feel it is helpful to not just African Americans, but the wider community?

Black History Month is a recognition of the accomplishments and achievements made as a people. It is a time to reflect on the shoulders upon which we stand and to use as a catalyst to forge ahead. It serves as a reminder to the wider community of the significant contributions made by members of the African American community.

MVT CID would like to thank Michelle Samuel of CROPEATS for taking the time to give her perspective during Black History Month. Check back next week for our final edition in this year’s series.