Open Sesame: Meet Christina Dorr Drake
Christina co-founded Willa's in 2019 with her sister and named the business after their Grandma Willa, who they remember always using real, honest ingredients to make delicious oat milk. Using a hand-written recipe card from their mom's kitchen drawer, they got to work starting their first food business!
Just as 2020 rolled around and Willa's was starting to take off, Christina was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing her to juggle a new business, cancer treatment during a global pandemic. We are so happy to report that Christina is doing well and is truly one of our heroes. She represents everything an entrepreneur should be: hard working, resilient, authentic and kind!
Q: What are some of the tunes in your kitchen playlist?
Depends on the day and time of day. Dinnertime when I'm trying to wind down is often Billie Holiday, Sandy Bull or Fleet Foxes. Friday night lately been gravitating towards Jamilla Woods or Billie Eilish. Weekend mornings George Harrison is often a go to.
Q: What’s the last thing you ate that brought you joy?
We tried making a buttermilk roasted chicken with Willa's Oat Milk and it was literally the best roasted chicken I've ever had. And my husband has tried a lot of roasted chicken recipes over the years so that is really saying something!
Q: What's an ingredient that you love that you think people underestimate?
Coffee! It's a secret ingredient in our family. Pour a splash in gravy, stews, or any sort of brown sauce. It brightens up the other flavors and adds a nice color.
Q: Who are your culinary heroes?
Dan Barber because he completely changed the way I think about food and everything connected to it forever. Also, the chefs of the restaurant Joe Beef in Montreal because I think dinner there was one of those meals that set a really high bar for every restaurant I've been to since then. My grandmother, Willa, because she was so ahead of her time and could make the most beautiful meals by getting creative with whatever she had around.
Q: Favorite Sunday night dinner?
Lately, I've been going to the farmer's market on the weekend and figuring out what to make based on what we find there…like grapes from the Finger Lakes for an appetizer, a fresh green salad, that oat milk roasted chicken recipe, and delicata squash sliced up and roasted the oven. So good.
Q: Favorite food travel destination?
It's hard to beat Tuscany! I also love Montreal. I really enjoyed everything I ate in South Africa. Vietnam and Thailand have been high on my list for when we can travel again.
Q: What's your go-to recipe?
My grandmother Willa's Bolognese sauce recipe.
Q: What seasonal fruit or vegetable do you count down the days for?Peaches! Especially when we have the chance to get them in the Hudson Valley, specifically at the Montgomery Place farm stand.
Q: What's a “foodie” related book, podcast, or movie you love?
The Third Plate by Dan Barber blew my mind as did his TED Talk on foie gras.
Q: Which restaurant are you missing the most during this pandemic?
Taiki Sushi in Boerum Hill. It was the last place we went before the lockdown and I still dream about that last innocent pre-pandemic meal. They also have amazing sushi and I can't wait until we can safely sit inside and enjoy a long relaxing meal at the little table in the back.
Q: What kitchen smell is most nostalgic for you?
My grandmother's Bolognese sauce.