So, 2021 has arrived. But things still feel a little…well…dreary. While we’re still at home – dealing with unparalleled levels of stress, sickness, and loneliness – there’s one thing that can always make us feel better and welcome in this new year with, if nothing else, a happy tummy: a warm bowl of homemade chicken soup. To curb this craving, I sat down with the chicken soup mavens of DC to get the inside scoop on their delicious soup (sorry, could not resist the rhyme). Meet Prescription Chicken founders – and real life cousins! -Valerie Zweig and Taryn Pellicone and find out how you can get your hands on this liquid gold.
Valerie: About 5 years ago, I got laryngitis twice within six weeks. That’s the universe making fun of me because I talk a lot. All I wanted was warm soup, but those were during the days before food delivery was ubiquitous. I had to spend like a $50 minimum at a local Chinese restaurant if I wanted some broth. I just wished there was a matzo ball soup delivery company out there. A few months later, we were sitting around the table during Seder and I ran this idea of a matzo ball soup delivery company out there and Taryn loved it. We both have deep backgrounds in hospitality. I went to culinary school and then worked in PR and restaurant brand development for a long time.
Taryn: I’ve always loved to cook and our family in general celebrates Judaism through food, it’s always been a big part of our lives. With that love, I went to school for hotel and restaurant management. While in school and after graduation, I managed a cupcakery and developed recipes. After that, I went to work in fast casual operations. I then went into larger scale operations in food and beverage for sports and entertainment venues, and then back into fast casual. Then, when Valerie came up with this idea, we just ran with it.
Valerie: We had no idea how hard this would be. For me, it kind of felt like we had this idea and had to do it now before someone else would come up with something like it.
Taryn: Both of our fathers started their own business, so I think there is something entrepreneurial in our blood. I was in an interesting place in life where I had a lot going on and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. I was constantly turning to Valerie for career advice, so when she presented this idea I knew it was something special. We figured we might as well try it out. It was also just this overarching feeling that we were going to create a business and kill it.
Taryn: We immediately started brainstorming names when we talked about the concept. We realized this is a product that brings goodness to all bad days, and helps bring all sicknesses to wellness. We kept brainstorming and I have such a clear memory of Val and I texting and landing on Prescription Chicken while I was in a spin class. The name made so much sense that we never went back.
Taryn: When we started, it was just the two of us in Mess Hall – a commissary kitchen in DC – tossing in chicken parts and doing the entire production ourselves over stock burners. We did this ourselves from September 2016 through August 2019. Eventually, we hired someone to help out and then shifted the business into wholesale and retail. Once you go larger scale, you have to have more consistency in your product and produce in a facility that is USDA approved. We moved to a co-packer in Alexandria and recently switched to a manufacturer in Minneapolis who can accommodate the volume needs!
We adapted the recipes from the same ones Val would make when she was in college. She was always making challah and soup for friends and trying out different recipes. We took those recipes, and scaled them. We both really love to cook. Even if I spent the entire day in the kitchen at work, I’ll still come home and cook.
Valerie: We don’t put anything crazy in our soup – it’s basic, delicious chicken soup. Our “hangover” flavor is a little different because that was inspired by fire cider. Part of the fun is thinking through all of the different types of chicken soups we can make.
Taryn: We started the business as chicken soup delivery, so in terms of that it’s changed nothing. There certainly have been changes that have had to happen as a result of how life is right now. People’s purchasing habits have changed. People used to go stroll around the grocery store and peruse new products, and now they’re just kind of in and out. So, we’ve lost the ability for people to discover our product that way. But, we are lucky that we’re still doing well and navigating this pandemic. We just moved into a new space and are finally now in a physical space where we can operate how we have always dreamed of operating.
Valerie: We want to see how we can expand into more natural grocery stores across the country and be in the prepared food section. We’re also currently testing a bunch of new soups. We’re playing around with a creamy soup and maybe one with rice, and we always have a favorite that we might bring back which is a spicy, coconut one.
Valerie: I love them all. The Grandma Style is so comforting and buttery. Bone Broth I drink for breakfast and get Faux Pho for lunch. Really all of them.
Taryn: I feel like we have soup for every meal. I am really loving our newest of the bunch, our Wedding Soup. It’s mini matzo balls, orzo, sautéed kale and onion, and this parmesan herb broth. It’s super delicious and creamy. I feel like it’s me in a soup because I’m an Italian Jew.
Valerie: Go to prescriptionchicken.com and click on our “order now” button. It makes a wonderful gift to send to a friend who is sick or just feeling stressed – we have a special “De-Stress package”. Most importantly, you can get it at local grocery stores like Mom’s, Glen’s Garden Market, some of the Streets Markets, and Whole Foods. Also, check us out on social.
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