This Vegan Catering Company Celebrates the ‘Natural Beauty of Food’

Plus, tips on how to create your own photo-worthy grazing board
Rua Francis of Planthropie

Color blocked into sections of dairy-free cheeses, seeds and nuts, fresh produce, spreads and crackers, the grazing boards created by Birmingham transplant Rua Francis offer a bold and sophisticated presentation for plant-based meals.

“I’m embracing the natural beauty of food,” says Francis, the pen-and-ink and watercolor artist and entrepreneur who launched Planthropie, a plant-based catering business, in June. “I feel like nature makes food in a perfect way.”

Along with its carefully curated vibrant spreads, Planthropie’s seasonal vegan menu includes tasty appetizers like olive and basil tapenade; small plate entrées like vegan mac and cheese shooters made with vegetables and cashew nuts; and raw desserts like lemon cheesecake and cacao energy bites.

Francis’ own food and wellness journey has helped her finesse these recipes. The 32-year-old, who emigrated from Iraq with her family in 2003, was raised in a household that emphasized fresh, homemade meals. Throughout the years, she’s dabbled in a plant-based lifestyle, but it wasn’t until 2016, when she started staying home with her then newborn, that she fully embraced a vegan diet.

“I saw how dairy was affecting my baby,” says Francis, who, instructed by a doctor, eliminated the animal byproduct to help solve her son’s acid reflux and colic. “He started sleeping like an angel.”  As part of a self-described “planthropic mission,” she plans to use her food to show others how a vegan lifestyle can also improve their health.

Planthropie will partner with a local health care professional and sponsor events that focus on educating the community about veganism, and offer free plant-based menu consultations to nonprofits. “What’s a better way to get to people’s hearts and minds than something as intimate as food?” Francis asks. “If I can inspire someone, then it plants a seed to change their lifestyle.”

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Pretty Palettes

Planthropie’s Rua Francis embraces her artistic side to create one-of-a-kind grazing boards

Prep: “I sketch what I want to do. I like a natural base. The board, for example, a really nice wooden board or a round board, [should be] really light so you can carry it easily.”

Technique: “I use a lot of color blocking. I group colors together, so it creates some sort of a visual flow. Even though the board is very full, when you create that color flow, it directs your eye to certain items.”

Food: “On my board, there will be at least a dip, a spread, and one [or two] cheese components. There will be vegetables to dip with or put spread on, and there will be some fruit. I like a surprise element, like … cacao beans. Throwing these in can strike a conversation.”