Food and Drink

Meet the Miracle Worker Behind These Gooey Vegan Brownies

Denise Woodard shares the story behind her allergy-friendly Partake Foods products.

Photo courtesy of Partake Foods
Photo courtesy of Partake Foods
Photo courtesy of Partake Foods

The first bite of a Partake brownie is luxuriously decadent: chocolaty, fudgy, and gooey beneath a crispy edge and shatterable top. It’s as every decent brownie should be. The most incredible part, however, is the fact that it’s vegan, gluten-free, and takes less than 40 minutes to whip up. It can stand up to any other boxed brownie mix.

This is all thanks to Denise Woodard, who started Partake Foods in 2016 after her daughter, Vivi, was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. “When searching for great tasting, high-quality snacks that she could safely enjoy, I came up way short,” she explains. “I thought ahead, in my mind, to her struggles socially while navigating her food allergies at birthday parties, play dates, and holidays.” Woodard left a career at Coca-Cola and, by 2017, Partake officially launched.

Woodard is from North Carolina, and food has always been at the heart of her family. “My grandmother’s cooking brought everyone together, and I wanted nothing more than to create those same memories with my daughter,” she explains. The brand began with boxed cookies and the mission to create delicious foods that can be shared without apprehension.

Since its launch, that mission has expanded and morphed, with an array of new products that are still vegan, gluten-free, and top nine allergen-free (the top nine allergens are eggs, milk, wheat, sesame, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, and peanuts). “I knew we could be a champion for food inclusivity by creating delicious foods that were allergy-friendly, not just allergy-friendly foods,'” Woodard says.

Photo courtesy of Partake Foods
Photo courtesy of Partake Foods
Photo courtesy of Partake Foods

The new products include pancake and waffle mixes (that can also be used to make muffins), a blondie mix, and even a pizza crust mix. Woodard finds inspiration for new products by looking for gaps in the market, having an opinionated daughter who tests recipes, and listening to consumer feedback-including from her own employees, some of which have allergies or dietary restrictions. “When our pizza crust launched, we heard from a number of people who hadn’t been able to have pizza in a long time, and we gave them ‘pizza night’ again,” Woodard shares. “Bringing folks back to a food they love and can now safely enjoy is purpose-driving.” Her favorite feedback is from those who shared the products with friends and family who don’t have food restrictions and they “couldn’t believe what they tried was vegan, gluten-free, and allergy-friendly.”

Aside from creating delicious, shareable treats, Woodard also uses Partake as a platform for fighting food insecurity and creating opportunities for HBCU students looking to pursue a career in the food and beverage industry. “As we’ve grown, I’ve quickly seen the importance and ability for us to lift as we climb,” Woodard explains. “Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children across the country, and-according to foodallergy.org-Black children are at a significantly higher risk of developing these allergies. We are passionate about getting safe food into the hands of food insecure families, so a portion of our proceeds go to organizations, like No Kid Hungry, to provide access to the food, education, and advocacy these families deserve.”

Woodard has spent a lot of time thinking about how to ensure food safety in her daughter’s life. There have been countless hours on the phone with restaurants, schools, and other parents. She’s methodical about her grocery list-whether it’s filling the pantry and fridge at home or packing food away for vacation.

All of these experiences are a driving force behind Partake’s mission, she says. “If I can give someone living with food allergies or dietary restrictions the ability to take a sigh of relief because they see our label in a pantry, at an airport, or on a menu, it’s all worth it.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer of food & drink at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

Food and Drink

How Talking Terps Has Influenced Cannabis Hype Culture

The origins and optimism behind the cannabis brand that sells out drops within minutes. Canabis...

Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain

Many cannabis brands describe themselves as “lifestyle brands” and “cultural disruptors.” Few of them actually impact lifestyles or broader cultural trends. Only one of them has figurines up on Stock X right now.

“For OG Terp Crawford to be featured amongst Nike, Jordans, Supreme, BAPE, and PS5s is really sick,” says Hope Lord, co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand Talking Terps. “Stock X is not taking everyone who makes a toy and putting it up there.”Between their psychedelic graphics, cannabis-adjacent accessories, and famous OG Terp Crawford figurine, Talking Terps has established a cult following amongst cannabis enthusiasts, hypebeasts, and beyond. On paper, it’s a lifestyle brand interested in both cannabis and psychedelics. In action, Talking Terps is an alternative universe that bridges the gaps between toy culture, cannabis culture, psychedelic culture, and American pop culture.

The brand was established as a concept in 2015 by Leor Feit aka Hope Lord, Flatbush Zombies member Antonio Lewis aka Zombie Juice, and Flatbush Zombies spiritual adviser Phil Annand aka PTA Haiti 3000. One year later, the phrase “talking terps” popped in a Flatbush Zombies song, referring to terpenes, a compound found in cannabis.

“We had a show at Red Rocks in Colorado,” Lord recalls. “I had a friend that was part of Blue River Terpenes who brought us the first sample of cannabis-derived terpenes. Then Juice and Erick made a song with it in the chorus.”

Talking Terps
Talking Terps
Talking Terps

Once Talking Terps emerged as a phrase, the graphics, accessories, apparel, events, and, of course, toys were soon to follow. By 2017, the phrase was spotted on one of Snoop Dogg’s t-shirts. In 2019, the concept of Terp Crawford was born, launching the brand towards the collectible toy game.

While the first Terp Crawford was technically a plush pillow, the first toy-named OG Terp Crawford-came in March 2020. The 6-inch tall vinyl sculpture of a humanized weed nug with a joint in his hand and a smile on his face is meant to embody everything Hope, Juice and PTA stand for.

“Our message is to love each other and be happy,” Lord says. “Tread lightly and disrupt nothing.”OG Terp Crawford drops sell out in actual seconds and resell on sites like Stock X for over double their retail price. More than a simple toy, he’s a figure that Talking Terps hopes will evolve into a full-on cartoon character.

“As time goes, the idea for Terp Crawford is for him to be a Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny type figure from our world that can cross over,” Lord says. “There should be no reason one day that Terp Crawford’s not throwing a football in some skit on Monday Night Football.”

That’s not just a high aspiration-the team is currently working with 3 Hearts Entertainment to develop a TV show around him. The goal is for Terp Crawford to go global and for Talking Terps to go meta. With their vast graphic library and club of TT enthusiasts, virtual collectibles like NFTs only make sense (though the team can’t let the terp out of the hat just yet).

“I can see Terp Crawford in Japan, speaking in Japanese on TV,” Lord muses. “Once we take him somewhere else, we could do big sculptures, like at KAWS level, maybe. I think we’ll get a TV show. I can’t speak too much on what we’re working on for the metaverse, but it’s got a lot of components. I can say that we’re building a whole new platform called the meta-forest.”

It’s safe to say there will be a sold-out waitlist to get into that forest.
Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Danté Jordan is a freelance writer, video producer, and media consultant specializing in cannabis culture and education. Follow him on Instagram.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.