It’s easy to poke fun at something like a kale cupcake. (Is it a hipster trend? Has health food simply gone too far? Will we ever tire of kale things?) But doing so overlooks the mission at heart. Underneath an exterior of whipped coconut icing and bright green batter lies a passion for making food that is nurturing, but still fun to eat. That’s how Miki Agrawal arrived at this verdant dessert, and the reason she opened her increasingly popular, and rapidly expanding, chain of Wild restaurants.
“It was born out of a stomach ache,” Miki says. “I kept having recurring stomach aches every time I ate out in NYC. I kind of discovered i was allergic to processed food — hormone filled dairy, processed flour, all that kind of processed stuff we eat.”
While she started giving up the various greasy spoons she knew and loved, Miki got to pondering. “I thought: there’s a billion obese people on the planet, in addition to a billion hungry people on the planet, so there’s clearly an imbalance,” she explains. “So, I started thinking about my favorite comfort foods — what was my favorite at the time that I had given up? — and that was pizza.”
According to Miki, Americans eat 100 acres of pizza every day. (Our brains briefly exploded into unending fields of sausage and pepperoni upon hearing this fact.) In such a ubiquitous New York eat, Miki sauce an opportunity “to take this beloved comfort food and turn it on its head.”
It wasn’t long before Miki had pizzas doing some pretty amazing headstands. “I had never even worked in a restaurant before, but I decided to open my first gluten-free pizza place.” She opened a spot in the Upper East Side first, followed by another in the West Village, then a third in Las Vegas, and now the newest member of the family in Williamsburg.
Over time, the menu at each has evolved into a full-fledged feast, from spicy prosciutto gluten-free pies to wild mushroom pasta, fig salad, bruschetta, and indeed, the infamous kale cupcake. “Kale is one of the best, most nutritious foods, and it’s all the rage,” Miki says about why she chose it as fodder for sweet tooths. “And of course everyone loves cupcakes. The difference is: cupcakes are popping up everywhere.”
So, Miki asked herself again: can I take this dessert and make it healthy? Turns out she could. Behold: the bright green kale cupcake. “I blend it into the batter,” she explains. “It has the nutrient content, but it still tastes like a cupcake, and I ice it with a whipped coconut icing. We have gluten-free carrot cupcakes as well, but the kale cupcake is my new favorite.”
The work she put in building her recipes, and the business, has since inspired her to share some of the wisdom she’s gained along the way. Her awesomely named book, DO COOL SH*T, has rocketed its way to a #1 bestseller on Amazon since Miki released it last August. She describes it as an “in-your-face manifesto for those seeking to blaze their own paths to entrepreneurship and find fulfillment and happiness through bold action and big ideas.” Ambitious and active. We’re a fan.
For fellow New Yorkers looking to emulate Miki’s sharp take on the biz, she’s even taking it a step further this summer. Reading a book can hardly beat first-hand learning, so she’s offering an in-person DO COOL SH*T meetup series aimed at inspiring curious folks to make their big ideas and passions a reality. Starting this Tuesday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m., it’s all goin’ down right at the restaurant’s Williamsburg joint, where guest speakers, conversations and farm-to-table meals will ensue. Miki describes the space as a “magical greenhouse” they’ve built out of an old space on South 3rd and Bedford. Just further evidence of doing cool sh*t, we’d say.