New year, new faces: Rapid Growth launches a new Q&A feature series in 2014, RapidChat, and introduces RapidChat correspondent Molly Crist. The founder of Onward Travel, she's owned a food truck, worked at the Downtown Market, and is a fan of winter, jewelry, and meeting new people. Stephanie Doublestein gets to know Rapid Growth's newest contributor.
RapidChat is a regular feature profiling interesting, diverse, and talented individuals in West Michigan as they talk informally about life, hobbies, work, food, and favorite local haunts. This week, RapidChat introduces Molly Crist, who will be Rapid Growth's regular RapidChat correspondent for the feature series going forward. We thought we'd shine the spotlight on Molly before she shines it on others.
Rapid Growth: You're an east coast transplant living in Grand Rapids. What's your favorite thing about the city?
Molly Crist: I like the way it feels like a big high school and you run into people you know. It's a community that's super welcoming and wants to absorb new people who think of it as their home.
RG: High school, huh? Tell me something about you in high school.
MC: I always dressed up and wore skirts. I think I just kind of thought you [were] supposed to. And I was inside all day so it was easier than it would be traipsing in and out of the Michigan weather. I was kind of friends with everybody, and I look back on that and I'm proud of that. I was student council president, in sports, had a lot of different friend groups, and I didn't fit into a box, which I something I'm still glad I don't do.
RG: True. You've already done several things professionally, including owned a food truck, worked at the new Downtown Market, and run a cooking school. What's always in your fridge?
MC: Nothing. (laughs) I always have lots of herbs that I store in jars so they last for a really long time. Usually leftovers because I cook in too big of quantities. Sprouts - I really like sprouting things. Lots of condiments, lots of jars of stuff.
RG: Where might you get some excellent "jars of stuff" in and around Grand Rapids? What are some of your favorite markets?
MC: I love the variety of markets here. I get a lot of stuff at the Fulton Street Farmers' Market year-round. I love the ethnic markets: the Mediterranean one at 44th and Kalamazoo, a couple different Asian markets, Russo's on 29th Street. You can get such a good deal on really nice foods. I also like getting bulk stuff at Nourish Organic Market but I also get a lot of things from a buying co-op my friend organizes. Between that and the farmers' market, I get bread at Field & Fire and shop at Fish Lad's fish market. I like food shopping; it's a way to get inspired to cook. In the summer, I manage to grow a decent amount of food in my front yard. Our house is a typical arts and crafts house set back 50 feet from the sidewalk and I grow tomatoes and kale and lots of herbs and peppers. You can always make a meal if you've got some kale and herbs, especially if you want breakfast for dinner.
RG: What's something basic that you cook frequently?
MC: I always make brunch on Sunday. My husband and I always make a really nice brunch. It's one of our rituals. I store potatoes in my basement and keep a stocked pantry, things like that so I always have food on hand. I think a lot of people don't cook because they don't have food on hand or they try to buy everything at once and they end up wasting food. I like to have a good pantry and just a few things going on.
RG: You just launched a travel businesss called Onward Travel
. What's your dream destination?
MC: I really like to travel for wine. I was just in Northern California a few weeks ago and I remembered how much I love centering a vacation around wine because it brings out the best in food and landscape. So I'm really dying to go to Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, France. I lived in Burgundy for six weeks as an au pair, but I didn't know wine then. I'm also excited to [get to] know Italy really well. I think after a couple years I'll probably know Italy like the back of my hand. It's such an interesting country and I don't know the regional differences but I'm looking forward to picking up the nuances of the culture.
RG: Meanwhile, it's January in Michigan. What do you like to do around here on a snowy day?
MC: I really enjoy cross-country skiing. I can go right out of my doorstep through Wilcox Park through the Aquinas campus. I also have the luxury of walking to the grocery store or the coffee shop. I live on a street that never gets plowed, but it doesn't bother me. I like semi-urban living.
RG: So if you're snowed in for a day, what do you do?
MC: I fill my living room floor with beads. I can't start unless I have all my beads out. So I spread them all over the whole floor. I've been collecting beads since I was 10 and my great-aunt gave me them. She passed away a few years later, so it's my connection to her. I make jewelry. I thought about becoming a designer but decided to pursue business. I feel like it's like cooking - you have lots of ingredients, pick a few of them and put them together to make something beautiful or delicious.
Look for Molly's interviews with interesting West Michigan residents in future issues of Rapid Growth.
Stephanie Doublestein is the managing editor of Rapid Growth.
Photograph by Adam Bird