Meet The Team





Marianne Lacko

Marianne is the co-founder of Nature’s Plate.  Since the beginning, she has been focused on the baking aspect of the business.  She may be a little obsessed with creating healthier versions of baked goods that everyone can enjoy (those of us who work in our kitchen every day definitely enjoy them).

Marianne left her position as VP in Information Technology at Goldman Sachs to help run Nature’s Plate full time in March of 2016.  After 20+ years in the corporate world, it was a huge adjustment!  She and Annette have used their business experience to grow Nature’s Plate.

Marianne now splits her time between growing the business, managing the daily operations, developing new products, and marketing… she and Annette pretty much do anything and everything that needs to be done, but the team is growing and we’ve got more help every day!

Q&A

What drew you to Nature’s Plate?  Annette and I have been eating plant-based for about 20 years, and I’ve been excited about it throughout that time period.  As I’ve learned more, I have moved into plant-based whole food which currently makes up most of my diet. I love all of the aspects of eating this way – it’s cruelty-free, so much better for the planet, and has huge health benefits. And add to that, being able to share this with people on a daily basis through Nature’s Plate -- what’s not to love??

What is your personal food philosophy? I eat plant-based (vegan) all of the time, and I eat healthy, unprocessed food 90-95% of the time.  I love to run and work-out, and I want to be able to do that for the rest of my life. I also want to be active and healthy for as long as I can for my daughter – she’s only 9, and I’m turning 50 so I want to do everything I can to be a part of her life for as long as possible.

What is your favorite part of your job? I love hearing other people’s stories about how our food and/or plant-based eating in general has impacted them in a positive way. How they feel better or have been able to stop taking some medication or even just that their fitness has improved – it’s awesome!

What is your favorite dish/entrée at Nature’s Plate?  Right now, I’m kind of obsessed with the Untuna. I love it and there are so many ways to eat it! Salads, wraps, sandwiches – it’s so yummy!

What is your favorite dessert at Nature’s Plate? I love the chocolate-frosted peanut butter bars and the carrot cake cookies – for very different reasons. The bar is super decadent and the cookie is more like a snack – it’s free of added oil and is loaded with carrots.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Well, as I said before, I love to run and work out – so between that and spending time with my daughter, husband, and grown son, that’s pretty much it. I’m really lucky that my son’s fiancée, Heather, works with us so I get to see her all the time! I also truly love working with my sister, Annette. We have been best friends for most of our lives, so it’s so nice to get to do this together. She’s also the hardest working and most productive person I have ever met, and that’s pretty amazing to be around!

 

 


Annette Baker

Annette is the co-founder of Nature’s Plate (along with her sister, Marianne).  She developed many of our recipes in the early days and was the original chef - preparing meals for customers on a weekly basis. 

Annette left her position as VP of Operations for Telvista, Inc (a call center provider) to run Nature’s Plate full time in October of 2014.  After 20+ years in the corporate world, it was a huge change!  She and Marianne have used their business experience to grow Nature’s Plate, and they now both work full time in the business. 

Annette now splits her time between managing many of the financial aspects of the business, marketing (including social media), product development, and the daily operations of the store and business.

 

Q&A

What drew you to Nature’s Plate? Well, Marianne and I have been eating plant-based for about 20 years, and I’ve been passionate about it throughout that time period.  Personally, I was motivated to eat this way by a combination of health, environment, and animal rights concerns, but over the last 8-10 years, I became increasingly aware of the huge health benefits of eating a plant-based diet focused on whole foods.  Cleaning up my own diet allowed me to reach new levels in fitness via Camp Gladiator and with running – culminating in a Boston qualifying marathon time in 2014. 

But more importantly, through my own research and the e-Cornell Plant Based Nutrition certification program, I realized that my diet was increasing my odds of avoiding the most common diseases in our society: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  All of this solidified by passion for sharing this information with others… and the best way I’ve found to do that is with food!  Since giving up meat, I’ve developed a huge interest in cooking and wanted to share the results of that.  I think it all started because there just weren’t many plant-based options out there, so I had to get good at cooking…

What is your personal food philosophy? I eat plant-based (vegan) all of the time, and I eat healthy, unprocessed food 90-95% of the time.  To me, it’s all about maximizing health while enjoying life.  People sometimes ask me if I do this because I want to live to be 100… it’s not really about living to a certain age, but it is definitely about feeling my best at every age.  And as I turn 50, this is really hitting home.  I feel better and have more energy than I did at 30 (and that’s not just because I had two young children to wear me out when I was younger).

What is your favorite part of your job? Without a doubt, it’s sharing the concept and food with new people… and seeing the positive impact it has on their lives.  I get to hear stories all the time about resolved or improved health issues, improvements in fitness and energy level… our customers are amazing.  I love helping people find out that healthy food can taste good!  And I love working with our entire team at the store.  Everyone is there because they are motivated by the concept and by improving people’s lives and the planet through food.  So it’s an awesome group!

What is your favorite dish/entrée at Nature’s Plate?  Right now, the Mediterranean Loaded Sweet Potato (because it’s new) and the L Streets Burger because I can’t believe we actually have a veggie burger that doesn’t fall apart!  Generally I like anything that our team member Andi comes up with because it’s awesome to enjoy dishes I didn’t create!

What is your favorite dessert at Nature’s Plate? Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons and Lemon Sheet Cake – Marianne has been making the macaroons for years and I still love them, but she outdid herself with the lemon cake… oh and I almost forgot cheesecake – all the flavors!

What do you like to do in your spare time? Ummm, what is spare time? Seriously, owning and running a small business is much more than a full time job, but I wouldn’t change anything. I do make time to work out and run several times a week… and I like to just hang out with family whenever possible… including my children, Andrea and Kyle – it doesn’t hurt that Andrea works at the store, my boyfriend Mark (who is also heavily involved in the business), and my 80 year old father who is still working full time and thriving on a mostly plant-based diet – but that’s a story for another time…

 

  

Andrea Baker

Andrea is Annette’s daughter, so she’s been involved with Nature’s Plate since its inception.  She has worked part time in the business since before the store opened.  Sadly, she is about to leave us since she just finished earning her Masters in Social Work at UTA.

Andrea cooks, preps, assists customers, and acts as one of our non-vegan recipe tasters – we always want to get feedback from vegans and omnivores alike to make sure our menu has mass appeal. She also helped with the store set up during construction and continues to set up/decorate for our special events. 

Andrea also has a well-earned reputation as the fastest dishwasher in the store… we all do it, but only she does it that fast.

Q&A

What drew you to Nature’s Plate? Well, I was sort of involved by default, but when I came back to Dallas after college, it seemed like the perfect place to work while in graduate school – I get to work with my mom and several other relatives!

What is your personal food philosophy? I’m an omnivore who tries to focus on whole, healthy food.  I’m very familiar with plant-based food having grown up eating a lot of it, and I notice that I feel better when I eat meals centered on vegetables and other plants.

What is your favorite part of your job? Helping my family’s business grow!  And I love hearing customer reactions to our food – especially when they’re learning how good plant-based food can be.

What is your favorite dish/entrée at Nature’s Plate?  The Pesto Bowl, African Bean Soup, & Veggie Mac.

What is your favorite desert at Nature’s Plate? Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

What do you like to do in your spare time? I haven’t had a lot of spare time while working and going to school, but I enjoy thrifting, estate sale shopping, and especially finding and buying (when it’s cheap) mid-century modern furniture.

 


Andi McCord  

As one of our shift managers, Andi runs the kitchen for several shifts a week and accomplishes a large amount of cooking and prep herself. 

Andi is the “official” Nature’s Plate photographer – the iPhone operator behind most of the pictures on our website and social media.  She also finds the time to test and develop new recipes -- among other menu items, she is the creative (sometimes intensely creative) force behind the Falafel & Tabbouleh Plate, Thai Butternut Squash Soup, L Streets Burgers, and several of the Nature’s Plate Bowls.

Andi taught herself to prep and cook, practicing at home and developing her skills for several years… she is our knife skills expert!  She’s been with us since shortly after the store opened.

Q&A

What drew you to Nature’s Plate? The opportunity to gain culinary experience and be creative, without having to work in an environment surrounded by animal products. 

What is your personal food philosophy? I’ve been vegan for 6 years – it started as a health thing but I stuck with it for ethical reasons.  I have been gluten intolerant since I was a kid so I also eat gluten free.  As a result, I seek out really diverse ingredients.  In general, I try to eat healthy (no oil, whole food) until I don’t and then I put vegan cheese all over something.

What is your favorite part of your job? Creating and developing new menu items.

What is your favorite dish/entrée at Nature’s Plate?  Lemon tahini bowls, or cranberry chickpea salad.

What is your favorite desert at Nature’s Plate? Blueberry Crisp

What do you like to do in your spare time? Trying out new cooking techniques, instagraming, and thrift shopping.






 

 

Heather Griffith -- one of our awesome shift managers, best known for her calm demeanor and ability to “destress the kitchen!”

 In addition to running the kitchen for several shifts a week, assisting customers, and doing a large amount of cooking herself (lasagna!), Heather keeps all of us on track with weekly inventory and purchasing… a crucial job if we don’t want to run out of cauliflower on Thai Green Curry day!

 Heather is a Nature’s Plate “original” team member – her boyfriend is Marianne’s son, so Heather first started working for Nature’s Plate in 2014 by helping out at the Texas Veggie Fair and filling in when needed in the early days before the store opened.  She’s been full time since the store opened.

Q&A

What drew you to Nature’s Plate? I love baking and cooking. Helping people find a nutritious, healthy option also makes me happy. When my boyfriend’s family were talking about opening the store, I was eager to help.

What is your personal food philosophy? Since I was 13, I couldn’t stand the thought of eating animals. Since then it’s been pretty much vegetarian with the exception of a few years of pescitarian.

What is your favorite part of your job? I love learning about the business and helping people who are new to plant-based food discover how tasty it is.

What is your favorite dish/entrée at Nature’s Plate? The Pesto Bowl and Buffalo Chickpea Salad.

What is your favorite desert at Nature’s Plate? Lemon Sheet Cake and Peppermint Patties

What do you like to do in your spare time? I like to draw, paint, craft and do anything outdoors. I also enjoy going to shows with my friends whenever there’s a good band playing. Going to a play or musical is something that I love whenever I have a chance.