Talking Desserts & CrossFit With Meagan Benz

Photo by Darren Burton

Photo by Darren Burton

We're excited to kickoff our new blog series, 'Meet The Ambassador', with baker and fitness enthusiast, Meagan Benz.  Read our one-on-one Q&A to find out how Meagan balances launching a new wholesale baked goods business while making time to stay fit! Let's start the convo with Crust Bakery, your new wholesale baked goods company. How/why did you start Crust? 

Crust is the culmination of a dream that both my partner, Shannon Roche, and I have had for years. After recently leaving my previous job as the pastry chef and wholesale bakery manager, it seemed like the perfect time for me to take the plunge, and luckily Shannon was on the same page and was ready to hit the ground running. Both Shannon and I have had a passion for vegan baking for years, and with the market for vegan baked goods in Philly being relatively untapped currently, we decided what better time than now?

What are your goals for the bakery? A storefront? Moving beyond Philly?

As of right now Crust will initially exist as a wholesale bakery working out of a kitchen in West Philadelphia. Our eventual goal, once we put Crust on the local vegan bakery map, is to open up a storefront in the West Philadelphia/University City area. Beyond that, time will tell!

How do you balance starting a business and finding time for yourself?

Starting a business is a lot of work. Working on it with a partner has definitely alleviated a lot of the stresses of starting a business on my own, but it has still been very time consuming to say the least. Luckily my business is my dream, so even when I am working it is enjoyable. Even though it can be exhausting, knowing where the hard work will take me in the future makes it worth my time and energy. Being super busy has also helped me to learn to "relax", something I have never been very good at doing.

When you work so hard you have no choice but to let yourself rest every now and then. When I finally can fit "me time" into my schedule I make sure it is spent wisely, hanging out with close friends, going to the gym, reading, being outside. Sometimes finding time for myself is easier said than done but over the years, being very type A and always on the go, I have learned the importance of fitting it into my schedule. If you don't respect your need to recharge you will burn yourself out and be miserable! And that is the least productive thing I can think of being!

Speaking of  "me time", where do you workout? 

I work out at CrossFit Supercharged in South Philly (19th and Washington).

CrossFit tends to get a bad rep in the media, what are some common misconceptions that people have about the sport? 

I think CrossFit often gets a bad reputation mostly due to the fact that it is a very new sport and, like any sport, when beginners (or even advanced athletes) are not coached or trained properly the risk of injury increases. Any physical activity can be risky, over training can happen with something as simple as running, and poor form can negatively affect a person in any type of physical activity. Believe me, I think there are certainly some CrossFit coaches out there that aren't giving enough attention to proper form, but I think there are also personal trainers and fitness instructors out there who fall under this category as well. I do not think it is specific to CrossFit and having visited multiple CrossFit gyms while traveling, I have yet to encounter a coach who let form and safety fall by the wayside. I can only speak to my personal experience with crossfit, but I can say with confidence that my coaches are hyper aware of our form and technique in the gym, and give more time and attention to teaching beginners than any other gym that I have been to.

What advice would you give to someone who's on the fence about trying CrossFit? 

I feel the largest misconception when it comes to CrossFit is the "I'm not strong enough to do that" mentality. I love my gym because it has such a wide range of members in regards to fitness level, profession, age, goals, etc. Every workout and movement is tailored to each individuals current skill level and ability, which makes it possible for everyone to set their own goals and acquire new skills at their own pace, meaning success for everyone no matter what your athletic ability is! I feel that this is a misconception that can apply to any form of physical fitness, running included. Those who aren't active can be easily discouraged when trying to self motivate because they set their eyes on a goal too large and daunting and that immediately turns into an "I can't" outlook. I know this because I once felt this way! Setting small reachable goals with a larger goal on the horizon is the way to go with any form of physical activity. I think the most important thing to remember when setting goals is to challenge yourself, but also to be kind to yourself. Know where you are in your wellness journey and honor that.

RelatedI Tried CrossFit, here's what I thought. 

All this talk about fitness; Do you have any specific fitness goals for 2015? 

I don't necessarily set fitness goals for myself year to year, but rather I am simply always working towards the next goal I have set for myself. Since I want to accomplish so much fitness/health wise, setting "goals for 2015" can lead to me getting carried away and setting so many goals for myself that it is hard to even know which one to focus on! Right now my goals are mostly CrossFit and weightlifting related, and I am currently training for a CrossFit competition that I have coming up in April.

I guess my overall goal is to always be pushing myself to try new things and to walk into the gym every day ready to train and to give it my all. Training is just as much mental as it is physical, and reminding myself to push through the "this is too hard I can't do this" mental block is a goal I strive for daily.

How do you balance working with tasty desserts at Crust Bakery and staying fit? Is there a lot of temptation? 

It is definitely tough to balance eating sweets and health, my love for sugar and the fact that I bake for a living is no coincidence! When I remind myself of how good I feel when I fuel my body with nutrient dense foods, it is easier to say no to eating a second cinnamon bun. That being said I think it is also important to occasionally indulge and enjoy a sweet treat and to never shame yourself for doing so, if you are going to enjoy it, enjoy it! Finding the healthy balance between sweets (or whatever your krypronite is) and nutrition is crucial to a healthy lifestyle.

What's your favorite go-to "healthy" meal? And "unhealthy" meal?

My favorite go to healthy meal is a roasted sweet potato, steamed kale or broccoli, and lentils. Super quick and easy and lentils are a great source of lean protein and go great when paired with complex carbs like a nutrient dense steamed green and either sweet potatoes or a squash. My favorite unhealthy meal is (vegan) mac and cheese, and if I am having dessert its definitely going to be a doughnut.

What's next for you? How can people find out more about Crust Bakery?

I am currently in the final stages of getting Crust's website up and running, but until then we can be found bringing updates to the public all over social media as well as photos of what we are working on. We also have a mailing list that we will be using to send out monthly updates that you can join here.

You can follow Crust Bakery on social media! 

Instagram: crustveganbakery

Facebook: Crust Bakery

Twitter: Crust_Bakery