Local eatery brings conscious eating to Beaches community


For Rosaria Anderson, the word “passion” is an understatement.

As a chef of more than 25 years, Anderson describes cooking with more than just passion; it’s with fervor and obligation that she describes the origins and motivation behind the ThisChick’s Kitchen.

“I don’t think people choose this career,” she said. “It comes to you.”

It’s clear as she directs her kitchen – an open space in clear view of the customer – and contemplates what new dishes she can add to her menu for the coming week that a careful amount of attention is paid to each decision. Meticulously labeled ingredient jars adorn the shelves separating the dining area, colorful saris doubling as curtains billow in open windows and the fragrance of freshly prepared stir-fry beckons several visitors Anderson knows by name.

The quaint eatery is big on food service at the crossroads of community and celebration. Formed six years ago as a web-only service geared toward helping lower-income families learn to buy, prepare and cook healthy food, Anderson used her expertise to help a group that mainly consisted of single parents. It was then that she saw how complicated it had become for families to create good, wholesome food on a budget.

“I realized as I was looking around, trying to help these families how difficult it was,” she said. “I knew that if I had that much difficulty finding and preparing things as a chef, it must’ve been … unimaginably hard for them. I wanted to be become part of the solution.”

That solution has fed an increasingly communal mission to bring clean eating to the Beaches, combined with Anderson’s own desire to support her family using her beliefs. Now, Anderson and a small team operate ThisChick’s Kitchen: a restaurant, fully customized catering service, delivery service and occasional host space known for organic, vegan dishes from a menu optimized on a weekly basis.

With a mission to bring “whole, local and seasonal” foods to the community, the ever-evolving menu features quiches, soups and salads in addition to less typical items such as nori rolls with tahini sauces. Each week’s meal plan is a surprise.

“What I make is based on what farm-fresh foods I can find,” Anderson said. “When I get the food on Saturday, it’s been in the ground that morning. I wash the ingredients, familiarize myself with the food and the menu comes to me on Sunday.”

A history of food

Though it’s a style of preparation that keeps her on her toes, Anderson says it’s a labor of love – and she’s no stranger to the work it takes to sustain a restaurant run with as many ethically and organically sourced vegan ingredients as possible. She recalled scraping cannoli dough off of her father’s work bench as a child, managing kitchens from the age of 18 and committing to an honest definition of “farm to table” with the inception of her catering business. As the daughter of a former pastry chef turned seafood distributor, she’s familiarized herself with the preparation behind each dish.

“I want people to understand that I understand the work it takes to … obtain clean food and clean behavior in a restaurant,” she said. “I know it takes waking up at the crack of dawn to bake pastries. I know what it’s like to hunt down fresh ingredients and I know that it’s worth it.”

Anderson’s experience has taken her across the nation. As a formally educated chef, she’s worked with renowned chefs in several cities and regions, among them Napa Valley, the French Quarter, Maine, Cape Cod and the Carolinas. After studying at Cornell University, she briefly pursued a career in social work that would eventually lead her right back to the culinary field, over and over again.

Determined not to leave the field again, Anderson buckled down in her efforts to help the industry, where over-processed food and impersonal restaurant experiences had increasingly become a problem. Bringing her own Sicilian roots to the table, she now incorporates the stylings and flavors of her childhood with her business.

Looking ahead

In the future, Anderson would like to expand on the seating space and offer more classes in addition to the ones currently offered at ThisChick’s kitchen. She’s also looking to eventually bring in additional staffing to accommodate more clients, expand on catering and introduce a new class and speaker series.

But for the time being, the chef is content keeping things small and encouraging a communal style eating by inviting members of the community to eat and socialize in the intimate, home-like space. And Anderson insists she and the ThisChick’s Kitchen team will continue to prioritize the greater interest of the community.

“To be successful, it’s not about the check at the end,” she said. “It’s a labor of love serving your community and being thoughtful of conscious food, of the community and its resources.”

ThisChick’s Kitchen is located at 353 6th Avenue S in Jacksonville Beach and is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.