CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local business woman and health food buff Jennifer Miller is expanding the food horizon for Charleston once again, this time in the form of Plant Lab, a futuristic-sounding food studio for culinary creations and experiments.
"The idea for a Plant Lab began when we were outgrowing this café space," said Miller during a recent interview at Mission Savvy, her organic juice bar and vegan shop in downtown Charleston.
"Our demand for production was much higher than what we were able to do here. We needed to increase our hiring, our production and our storage potential," she added.
Not to mention, offering public classes in raw-vegan foods, prepared using methods far different from traditional cooking.
"The way we prepare food, the recipes are so incredibly different than conventional ways of eating that it takes a long time to train someone to really understand how to craft these recipes. We needed a school. We started looking for spaces around town that were basically commercial kitchens," she said.
Last October a space at 807 Quarrier Street came open and Miller jumped on it. Previously a sub shop, the space was already designed for making food but needed a lot of work. Still, for Miller's needs, it couldn't have been better.
"That space is the perfect location for us, right down the street. It allowed us to source so much more organic produce and store it. So we have instant access to everything we need at a lower cost," she said.
Having the extra space and produce on hand couldn't have been timelier, given the water crisis and state of emergency that hit the Charleston region earlier this month.
Using extracts and items they already had on hand, Miller and her staff began developing what she calls "chemical-kicking tonics," designed for West Virginians exposed to contaminated water, "to help remove the chemicals from the body and clean their systems."
There are four types of tonics created in the Plant Lab and available now at the café; Chemical Kicker, Immune Defense, Anti-Inflammatory and Digestive Aid.
Miller wants something positive to come from the water crisis. She hopes it will make people pay more attention to their bodies and be proactive about their health. That is where she and the staff of the Plant Lab can help, she said, with classes that teach people to incorporate things like super foods into their diet.