SULLIVAN — Alicia Randolph-Lucchesi can make you think it is extra fudge — not black beans — in her batch of brownies. The Sullivan chef and educator specializes in plant-based cooking.
But even more than that, through wellness classes, live cooking demonstrations and her meal delivery service, Randolph-Lucchesi provides her students and customers with a holistic, inclusive and affordable understanding of what it means to be healthy, all while never sacrificing taste.
Sharing this knowledge has been her lifelong passion.
As a child, watching her parents suffer with several ailments and eventually succumb to their illnesses before age 50, Randolph-Lucchesi recalls thinking that “there was a better way to live, complementing Western medicine with Eastern medicine and doing so on a budget.”
This realization, at a critical juncture in her life, prompted her to research holistic therapies and Ayurvedic medicine. Originating in India, Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest healing practices.
In 2005, Randolph-Lucchesi enrolled in the online Clayton College of Natural Health, based in Birmingham, Ala., where she earned her master’s degree in holistic wellness.
When she was stricken with kidney stones in 2007, Randolph-Lucchesi embarked on her own course of healing. Instead of passing the stones traditionally, which is very painful, she used her knowledge gleaned from an herbal certification course and took specific herbs to help kidney function. She also embarked on a two-week raw soup cleanse. As a result, the kidney stones shrank to such small levels that she did not have to pass them, nor did she did notice if she had.
Soon after, she began preparing meals for friends who were coming off health cleanses and needed to replenish with specific foods. That led to what she calls the “original plant-based meal delivery service.” Pandora’s Lunch Box was born in 2009.
At the time, she was living in Long Island, N.Y., where she was working for an organic food market and chiropractor’s office and teaching health and wellness classes on the side.
“People trusted me because they knew my background from teaching courses on the side,” she said. “The side gig became the main gig.”
These days from her Sullivan kitchen, Randolph-Lucchesi prepares a wide variety of meals-to-go from the Green Goddess Polenta, with spinach, garlic, green olives, broccoli and a pesto puree to the Black-eyed Pea Curry with coconut milk, potatoes and spices.
In 2017, she moved to Maine with her husband, Rob, where she continued teaching through adult-ed programs and live cooking demonstrations (before the pandemic) at Tiller & Rye Local Grocer in Brewer.
She also got Pandora’s Lunch Box service up and running again, after navigating a much different food delivery landscape in Downeast Maine compared to Long Island.
While the delivery service is still very much a part of her repertoire, Randolph-Lucchesi notes the importance of not just making healthy food for her community, but teaching those around her how to make it themselves. In her classes, she strives to make plant-based cooking easy, accessible and inviting for her students. Teaching online during the pandemic, she also developed methods to overcome the potential pitfalls from videoconferencing platforms.
For the live cooking demonstrations, Randolph-Lucchesi pre-records and edits videos that she and her husband shoot in their kitchen.
When students attend the classes virtually, they can watch the cooking demonstration while she provides extra instruction and discussion. A sense that everyone is working together is created.
Additionally, the Zoom classes have expanded participation and are less intimidating for students to follow along in their own kitchens.
“It’s actually turned out to be, in my opinion, almost better,” she said.
An assortment of classes (with names created by Randolph-Lucchesi’s love of puns, such as the “Cashew Later” series) teaches students how to make a cashew cream that rivals an Alfredo sauce, a veggie burger recipe perfected over two decades and for dessert, mousse made from avocados.
Two different offerings (a 101 and a 201 level) show students how to make their own plant-based, dairy-free cheese.
Lessons are designed to be inclusive, with ingredients that are easy to find and affordable.
“I don’t want anything to exclude people,” she said, especially students who are not following a strict, plant-based diet.
Many students are just beginning their journey with plant-based foods, she said, especially since many digestive changes, such as lactose intolerance, tend to happen with age.
Together, her students “find healthier ways to eat sweets and pastas and the comfort foods we were raised with.”
To learn more about Randolph-Lucchesi’s meal delivery service, course offerings skincare line, visit pandorasproducts.net.