Each year in May, the Senior Exploration provides seniors with a chance to integrate and apply skills and knowledge in an authentic, in-depth experience. Using a personal question as a guide, students are encouraged to find an experience that will require them to reflect on their own growth while at WFS. Students may explore any of the following: career options, service, immersion in a different culture, an old passion, or a new interest. Students work with a mentor/expert, document the experience through guided journals and photographic evidence, and present to family, peers, and faculty.
With the Class of 2021 getting ready to head out on their Senior Explorations, it was timely that we got an update about Taryn Pellicone ’06 whose Senior Exploration was about the “life of a chef” and learned that after working in the restaurant industry after college for 10 years, she started an on-demand chicken soup business (“Prescription Chicken”) in Washington, D.C. Most recently, Taryn and her partner began selling their product to grocery stores and it can now be found in more than 400 stores across the nation, including Whole Foods in the Mid-Atlantic region and Sprouts Farmers Market.
We had a chance to ask Taryn some questions about her time at WFS and how her teachers and her Senior Exploration encouraged her to pursue her passion about food.
Can you tell us about your background and where you are now?
My life has always revolved around food and cooking in some form from going to cooking camp with my cousins and always entertaining for friends and family gatherings. Upon graduating from Friends, I decided to study hospitality at the University of Delaware as it combined my love for the culinary world with people. Immediately after my studies at UD, I moved to Washington D.C. to start a career in the food industry - from running fast casual operations to high volume restaurants at sports and entertainment venues. Hospitality has always been a passion of mine and no matter what path I took, I found myself coming back to the world of food and entertainment!
What do you remember from your Senior Exploration?
Senior Exploration was SO fun and SO interesting. I remember thinking, "How amazing is it that our school is letting us pre-explore our passions before going into the big scary (and exciting) world of college!" At that time I LOVED to cook and thought I wanted to be a chef. With that, I took some cooking classes with a fellow classmate and did an internship at the Four Season Philadelphia in their kitchen. The one thing I vividly remember was on day one of the Four Seasons the executive chef made me clean out lobster heads - and if you've ever done that, you'll know it really prepares you for the real world of being in the kitchen. I loved the hustle and bustle. I loved the white coat. I loved the passion behind every slice of the knife and even the bellow of the hot lines. There was a sense of community in the kitchen that I loved and it showed me that I wanted to continue down that path.
Did you have any particular teachers at WFS who had an impact on you?
It's hard to name just a few, because all of my teachers were absolutely incredible and I was there from second grade. Hope Hawkins was my first teacher - she made me believe in the value of friendship. Mrs. Woodward and Mrs. McManus were the two who had the most impact on me as I was graduating. Michelene (McManus) was my advisor and a teacher for the IB program. She showed me how to be me and to allow myself to shine through no matter what. I worked very closely with Mary Woodward for the yearbook. I cannot say enough amazing things about her and she really got on our level to make us feel empowered and that we could accomplish anything. I could ramble for HOURS about all of my teachers. Looking back on it today, my time at Friends was invaluable and I am proud to say that I went there and got the guidance from who I did.
The idea of "prescription chicken" is so unique - is there a background story on it? What made you want to start selling your soup in grocery stores?
As I mentioned, I used to go to culinary camps with my cousin. Her sister, Valerie, is who I am in business with now! Val was battling two bouts of laryngitis in a matter of six weeks. It was crazy - she is a trained chef, lived above a grocery store, in the heart of D.C., and couldn't find good, practically homemade chicken soup anywhere. I was in the midst of a job transition and she approached me with the idea of chicken soup delivery and my immediate answer was YES. She has a background in restaurant public relations, marketing and brand development. All of that combined with my heavy operational background, mixed with people development and systems creation, we knew we were the perfect balanced recipe for creating this business. We launched in 2016 and tried a variety of things such as soup delivery, pop-ups in food halls, but one thing we noticed there to be a need for was a clean-label, all-natural and practically homemade chicken soup on the shelves of the prepared food aisles in grocery across the nation. So four years later, here we are, slingin soup in D.C. and on the shelves of over 400 natural grocery stores across the nation.
Can you tell us more about the Whole Foods Women Maker Project?
Whole Foods Market Mid Atlantic was one of the first retail partners we acquired. They are AMAZING about featuring locally made products, especially those founded by women. In the month of March they committed to partnering with three local non-profit organizations and matched 100 percent of sales up to $30,000 from featured women maker purchases March 1 through March 21, of which we were included. The non-profits were: Dreaming Out Loud
, The Enterprise Center
, and Community Kitchen Pittsburgh
. We haven't seen the results of the campaign but we know they definitely reached their maximum.
Any advice you'd have for the Class of 2021?
Can't stop, won’t stop - is that so cheesy? But really - as cliche as it is, follow your dreams. If there is something you want to do, then do it and do not let anyone tell you that it is impossible. One thing I will say is it's not easy and you've got to be persistent and hustle hard. Listen to your mentors. In the moment, your education may not always seem like it's setting you up for success, but you just got the best education out there and you are prepared to take over the world. It's also okay to change paths multiple times. Just because you think you're set out to do something does not mean it will always turn out that way. Never give up and always view a pitfall or challenge as an opportunity to learn. Some of the biggest advances we've had in our business have been from failures and we wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. It has allowed us to intimately get to know our business and our product and for that we are set up to do really amazing things.
Anything else you'd like to add?
In the Wilmington area, you can find our products at Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market. It would mean the world to me for WFS families to discover our product and make it a part of their weekly grocery haul.
Friends taught me everything. I look back on my education and time there and am so grateful for where it has gotten me today. My closest friends are all people that were in my classes and their friendship is my family. Friends school had such an impact on me and I fully believe that I've gotten where I am today because of my experiences and the people that were there by my side!