Mar Vista resident is on a mission to heal the soil…one potato at a time
By Kamala Kirk
Since Katie Powell was a kid, she has been a healthy eater. While her classmates were eating cereal, she enjoyed spinach sauteed with garlic. As she got older, Powell loved cooking for friends and family, but never thought of it as a potential business opportunity until late 2019 when she visited Costa Rica.
“I’ve always been obsessed with nature, being outdoors and involved in environmental projects on a small scale,” Powell says. “I had finished reading a book called ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben and it blew my mind learning about everything that goes on in the forests and the soil. My curiosity eventually led me to go to Costa Rica.”
During her trip, Powell learned about conservation and rehabilitation approaches to food and farming systems at Brave Earth, a regenerative farm and healing arts center. She was simultaneously enrolled in an online soil advocacy course with the Los Angeles nonprofit Kiss the Ground, which taught her about everything from farmer prosperity to biodiversity loss. After completing the course, Powell signed up for an internship with the nonprofit. Eventually, she became inspired to combine her love for potatoes and soil—and Katie’s Twice Baked was born.
“Growing up in North Carolina, twice-baked potatoes were a staple in our home,” Powell says. “I began thinking of ways to bridge the gap between food and healthy soil, because commercial farming methods affect the nutrient density of many foods. I started to experiment with different recipes and had my friends over for taste-testing parties, where I’d get instant feedback. After several months, I was able to nail down the potato flavor combinations that people liked the most.”
The twice-baked potatoes are available in six flavors including their bestselling Buffalo chicken, which features a mix of organic chicken, celery, red onion, cheese and buffalo sauce topped with green onion and parmesan, then sprinkled with blue cheese crumbles. Another favorite is the Queen Green, a vegan option that combines organic celery, broccoli, spinach and rainbow chard mixed together with homemade cashew cream and topped with a vegan cheese blend.
All of Katie’s Twice Baked potatoes are made with locally and responsibly sourced fresh produce and meats. Powell also grows ingredients in two small garden beds in the backyard of her Mar Vista home. After the potatoes are prepared, they are frozen in compostable packaging until they are ready to be served.
“You just pop them into the oven like a pizza and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on how you like it,” Powell says. “I like mine on the more crispy side.”
Katie’s Twice Baked recently made its debut during a pop-up at the Mar Vista Farmers Market on November 1. In addition to having a weekly stand at the Playa Vista Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and Westchester Farmers Market on Sundays, she also offers local delivery in Los Angeles.
“The farmers markets are a great opportunity to get feedback from folks on what they like,” Powell says. “I have a long list of different recipe ideas I’d eventually like to try making, but first I want to see how these go and then play around with more in the future.”
To engage and educate customers, Powell writes down a random fun fact about soil on a chalkboard that she displays during every farmers market. She also includes her favorite quote from the book that started it all: “There are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet.”
Committed to giving back, Katie’s Twice Baked is also a member of 1% for the Planet, a global organization whose members contribute at least 1% of annual sales to various environmental causes. Powell has chosen to donate a portion of her proceeds to Kiss the Ground, the nonprofit that taught her so much and helped pave the way for a new future.
“It brings me a lot of joy to spend my time in the kitchen and also be able to grow with a movement that’s meaningful,” Powell says. “Hopefully as we continue to grow, we can give back more and do better for ourselves and for the planet.”
For more information, visit katiestwicebaked.com