In preparation for the day you’ll be spending dreaming about food you are not consuming, we figured now is the perfect time to introduce you to DC’s resident Swapple maker. “What are Swapples? You may be asking. Swapples are like waffles, except healthy. They’re made entirely from Yucca root and use only whole fruits and vegetables. And, wait for it, delicious.
Founder, owner, and CEO Rebecca Peress is ready to share how she became a food innovator/business owner by age 23 and why she really might be a spy working for the CIA.
Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?
Rebecca: I came to DC in 2010 to start undergrad at GW and never left. I thought I wanted to work for the CIA/FBI, so I came here for that. After an interview with the Secret Service for a summer internship, I almost got it and then they were like “no, sorry”. I didn’t have anything to do that summer, so I interned with a food/beverage director at a golf course and fell in love with food/hospitality and totally changed courses.
Allie: Hold up. You wanted to be in the CIA?
Rebecca: I wanted to serve the country. I’m also a true crime junkie. My cousins still think I am a secret agent and that Swapples is just a cover.
Allie: How did you come up with the idea for Swapples?
Rebecca: One Saturday when I was bored, I was messing around in my kitchen and put Yucca Root in my waffle iron. I wanted to see what would happen. I’ve been interested in nutrition since I took my first health class. I was having really bad blood sugar issues my senior year of college, and my doctor had me take out all sugar for an entire year. That was really hard. But that year changed my palette and brought to light how much bad stuff I was actually eating.
I started eating more plant-based and had taken out grain, but I wanted something crispy and bread-y.
Allie: What was the first flavor of Swapples you ever made?
Rebecca: The Everything Spice was my first flavor because I grew up with bagels in New York and missed them.
Allie: Who was your first customer?
Rebecca: I tell my former boss that Swapples would not exist if not for him asking for a bite of it one day and then telling me he would pay me for them! Then other people started ordering them, and I realized there was a market for this. I was 23. I had no boyfriend, no dog, not a lot of savings, I already worked like crazy so I didn’t really see my friends much. I had nothing to lose.
Allie: What’s the hardest part of starting and owning your own company?
Rebecca: There is no rule book for it. You’re figuring it out as you go. I am not a risk taker; I don’t like the uncertainty of it.
Allie: What’s the most rewarding part?
Rebecca: Being able to share them with people. Getting emails from people about how Swapples changed their life, or helped their gut issues, or how they finally have a gluten-free waffle they can eat with their family. That is why I do it.
Allie: What’s your dream for the future of Swapples?
Rebecca: For it to go national. Then, I’d want to sell it to a larger company so it can be spread wider. If I can put something out in this world that makes it easier to eat whole foods and fruits and vegetables, I want to do that.
Allie: Favorite Swapples flavor?
Rebecca: Garlic and greens.
Allie: Do you serve Swapples at Jewish holiday meals?
Rebecca Swapples can be used in place of matzo because they’re kosher for Passover! I’ve also served them at Shabbats in place of challah, and at Hanukkah parties as latkes.
Allie: What advice do you have for someone dreaming of starting their own business?
Rebecca: Take care of yourself. I get eight hours of sleep every night and work out every day. Working out is so important to me.
Allie: What do you like about working out?
Rebecca: I like high intensity training (HiIT) workouts and boot camps. I like to be dripping in a pool of my own sweat. I don’t drink, smoke, or eat a ton of sugar, so working out is my release. If I don’t workout for more than two days in a row I go crazy. I’ll work out anywhere. Once, I was on a 14 hour plane to China and was going crazy so I started doing lunges, squats and pushups in the middle of the aisle. People were staring at me but I didn’t care it felt so good.
Allie: What’s something people might be surprised to find out about you?
Rebecca: I started dating my boyfriend after we talked at a OneTable Shabbat dinner.
Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…
Rebecca: They eat.
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