By Tess Berger
Syracuse’s favorite trendy spot Original Grain has a tasty new toast on its wholesome menu — and this one doesn’t just taste good, but it does good for the community, too.
The $7 toast-spectacular is the brainchild of Rochelle Bilow, a local food journalist and an almost-daily customer at OG. She is also an eating disorder survivor and recovery advocate.
A portion of the proceeds will go to Ophelia’s Place, a local nonprofit that works to provide support and resources to eating disordered individuals and anyone impacted by eating disorders and body scrutiny. The proceeds will also benefit Circles of Change, the body positivity and body empowerment movement created by Ophelia’s Place.
“I knew I wanted to do something big for Eating Disorders Awareness Week,” Bilow says. “Every year I try and do something to get the message out, and last year I wrote some articles on my blog, but I thought, ‘Okay, how can I make a bigger impact this year?’”
One winter day, Bilow was listening to some bumpin’ hip-hop music at Original Grain while pondering over their clever menu items, and an idea came to her: “Why don’t they have a menu item called Nutty by Nature? That would just be the most brilliant addition to the menu.”
The idea snowballed and within a month, Nutty by Nature landed on OG’s menu — a temporary item that Bilow developed with chef Steve Samuels and co-owners Chris Bily and Eric Hinman.
The toast itself starts with a thick slab of house-made banana bread and is topped with silky-smooth carrot butter, sliced banana, granola and almonds, candied carrots, honey, and a sprinkle of bee pollen. “It’s so good,” Bilow says. “It’s not just that it’s connected to me and a cause that I love, it’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted at this restaurant.”
Ophelia’s Place is important to Bilow because when she was struggling with bulimia in high school, the organization — and specifically its founder, MaryEllen Clausen — were there to offer support. “I have so much admiration and respect for [Clausen] and what she’s doing, and what Ophelia’s Place is doing with their mission. So when I thought about who would benefit from the proceeds of a collaboration like this toast, I knew that I wanted it to be local. I wanted to make a large impact, but I wanted all of the money and dollars and resources to stay here in Syracuse. It was just a no-brainer for me.”
Perhaps the most important message Bilow can send is this: “Anyone can reach out to Ophelia’s Place. You don’t have to be in a certain point in your journey. They are accepting of everyone. There is help there. There are support groups, there are resources, and if you’re looking to make a change and if you’re thinking about recovery, you don’t have to do it alone. Ophelia’s Place and this community will make sure that you do not do it alone.”
Ophelia’s Place can be reached at
(315) 451 5544, or at https://www.opheliasplace.org/contact/.
If you get the Nutty by Nature toast, share your photos on Instagram and tag Bilow (@rochellebilow) and Original Grain (@originalgrainsters)