Seattle Munchery Chef Raymond Southern
“Growing up on a small farm in Vancouver, my family never would’ve thought to buy a package of strawberries in winter,” says chef Raymond Southern. “It was about harvesting or catching whatever was in season and making a big feast with it.”
Southern’s appetite for the culinary arts has taken him across the globe. He’s overseen kitchens in Boston country clubs, Peruvian resorts, and aboard cruise ships in the Caribbean. For a long time, he loved nothing more than stumbling upon a new-to-him street market in some far-flung locale, where he would seek out new ingredients, cooking techniques, and points of view.
Eventually, all the travel took its toll. At one point, Southern realized he’d been on a boat for months, “yearning the whole time for a specific kind of apple” found only in the Pacific Northwest. He and his wife returned to his home region. Today, Southern works for the Seattle arm of a food delivery startup called Munchery, which also services San Francisco.
Munchery is aimed at health-conscious professionals who don’t always have the time to source and cook a nourishing meal from scratch. (Even Southern finds himself in occasional need of a shortcut—most days, he’s too busy to cook breakfast, so he’ll blend a quick smoothie using whatever produce he can scrounge up from the pantry.)
Munchery offers same-day delivery, biodegradable packaging, and a seasonal menu prepared fresh daily by renowned local chefs. Plus, for every Munchery order placed, another is donated to charity, directly impacting someone in need. Among a certain set of foodies—particularly those well-versed in the Warby Parker or Toms model of corporate responsibility—the concept is gaining traction.
Like a lot of his colleagues, Southern was drawn to Munchery because he identified with its mission. For him, great food and community had always gone hand in hand—he’d spent countless summers cleaning fresh-picked green beans with his mother and her friends around a farmhouse table. Through all his travels, Southern made a point of contributing to any culinary community he found himself a part of.
In Boston, Southern recalls how he’d sneak in a few hours before or after work to help package food for a service not dissimilar from Munchery—though there, his culinary creations were delivered to AIDS patients with extreme dietary restrictions. And in St. Maarten—among the most popular tourist destinations on the planet—Southern taught free hospitality and culinary classes to local kids who couldn’t otherwise afford it. “Positions like mine were too often filled by someone from a foreign country,” he says.
Munchery donates thousands of meals a week to food agencies serving at-risk residents in Seattle and San Francisco, and Southern is pleased to contribute to a company making such a big impact. He’s also particularly proud of one of Munchery’s latest endeavors: a collaboration with PayPal to host a holiday feast in San Francisco for hundreds of at-risk residents. Between November 25 and December 15, customers are encouraged to order from Munchery using PayPal. A percentage of the proceeds from these sales (beyond the one-for-one meal program) will go to the event.
Meanwhile, Southern is busy crafting a holiday meal of his own: Thanksgiving. He’s already hosted one this year—Canadian Thanksgiving this past October—for which he cooked the majority of dishes, including butter tarts from his native Canada. This year’s American Thanksgiving will be hosted by his brother-in-law, who also calls Seattle home. Southern is excited for the conversation that will take place over dinner, though he admits he’s glad he’ll only be responsible for a few items on the table this time.
“The way I’m cooking in my own home, for my own family, is how I cook at Munchery,” Southern says. “What we do here makes me feel very happy. We’re a super happy group of chefs making super happy food.”
Photos courtesy of Munchery