You’ve probably never met a person like Abundance Child. A compelling combination of contemporary entrepreneurial drive and traditional homesteading instincts, she defies prediction.
She is the chef-owner of Drop Squad Kitchen, a Riverfront Wilmington restaurant that has built its reputation on vegan cuisine. But Drop Squad Kitchen is more than just a place to eat, it’s a community center of sorts. It’s a school. It’s a village square.
Prior to her work pioneering lauded vegan recreations of American food, such as her “skin-on” fried “chick-un” and Maryland “crab” soup made with hearts of palm, and plant-based fish entrees, Abundance was in the corporate world. At an employment agency, she helped applicants brand themselves for potential employers. At an integrated media and management group, she furthered her knowledge of branding and expanded into social media. One of her favorite jobs was at the Girl Scouts of America, where she worked with young girls, as well as nonprofit partners, doing work that allowed her to give back to her community.
She even put in her time at the company-of-Delaware-legend, MBNA, a job which she says (unsurprisingly) was: “Too corporate. I’m not a clock-in, clock out type of sister.”
Through these varied jobs, she learned the importance of developing one’s niche. And during these periods of gainful employment, she always had a side hustle, a desire to nurture, an artistic bent and the curiosity and industriousness to be able to make life moves that suited her soul. Not to mention, later jobs offered a lunch hour and a desk from which she could leverage the internet and other resources to satisfy her interests.
She says, “My first job was cleaning rooms at an Econolodge in Dover. Later, I begged for a job at the Wild Pair shoe store. I was a shoe fanatic and I worked there until I graduated. I didn’t HAVE to work when I went to college but I always had to do my own thing. My mom wouldn’t pay for all those things.”
She adds, “In college, my part-time job was babysitting. I had forgotten that aspect of me. When I was in the corporate realm, I was helping people who couldn’t get their taxes done and learning about the nonprofit sector.”
While raising two daughters, A’nanatawa (called Nana) and Mea’Ra, Abundance had periods that were especially challenging, and she managed to turn those times of life into fruitful industries. While depending on food stamps for a few months to make ends meet, she would add olive and coconut oils and baking soda to her grocery cart for use as homemade moisturizer, toothpaste, deodorant and laundry detergent. By making these things at home, she could afford things she preferred, like organic lettuce. And at the same time, she turned those skills around into lessons for Girls Society and Order Mother Earth, predecessors to Drop Squad Kitchen.
Between weekdays at Girl Scouts and Careerteam, she would have weekend opportunities to vend homemade items like popcorn for Girls Society and shea butter products for Order Mother Earth. She admits that the groups’ activities are what students once learned in home economics, a subject she thinks people are sorely missing now. Though her modern take on the concept includes not just making the products but also showing people how to sell the products—creating their own websites, for example.
Yet none of these business ventures are ever about money. A philosophy is always built in.
She says, “I created Order Mother Earth after Girls Society. When Nana was twelve, and being bullied, I realized I need to be around women to help me do this.”
She adds, “In Order Mother Earth we learn from each other and are bound by a bond because we are mothers first. We have unconditional love for each other like we have for our children.”
Abundance continues to describe herself using a term she says was coined by a former employer—venture culturalist. This has led her to form other projects, such as her spoken word poetry/hip-hop night once known as Thorough Thursdays, which succeeded for years in the early-revitalization era of downtown Wilmington.
“I’m not interested in the money aspect. I’m in it for the adventure into the difficult aspects of our community. For example, a subculture is hip-hop; I really believe in hip-hop’s message. I believe it’s an indigenous art form, and that we can use it as a tool and not a weapon. Food is a culture. A subculture in food is plant-based food. I have been vegan since I was 18 and raised child that way. I should be investing my capital in that. Instead of venture capitalism, I invest in culture that is important to me.”
“I don’t just wanna be the artist at the open mic, I wanna produce the open mic. I wanna talk about issues happening in the community, so I’m gonna create my own podcast.”
Why vegan food?
One would think the story of how a vegan chef—famous up and down the mid-Atlantic—became a vegan would be passionate and inspirational, but it’s easy to identify with.
In 1993, the Hockessin-raised Ursuline graduate attended Clark Atlanta University. She would visit the dining halls in search of the comforting food she grew up on and realized many, many students around her were eating vegan. For once, not wanting to stand out, she adopted the healthy eating regimen.
But she eventually found herself back home where the foods of her youth were ever-present, and later, desiring to raise her daughter on vegan food, she had to get creative on her own.
She says, “I’d always be the one at party bringing a plant-based dish that everybody ate over everybody else’s food. I learned I had something to give with food.”
Established five years ago inside Molly’s Ice Cream, her mother’s own side-hustle business, Drop Squad Kitchen celebrates a tremendous reputation for excellent food.
Abundance says that her long-time friends point out to the mid- to late-90s as the origins of her reputation as a great vegan cook—house parties in downtown Wilmington—where her famous hibiscus red tea became a staple.
At times, she has returned to meat eating, and today her vegan lifestyle is more about her family history of diabetes and heart disease than animals and food justice.
Perhaps the why and how doesn’t matter, since she says, “I created a movement out of food and it’s bringing my family joy.”
Her vision for Drop Squad Kitchen is to be on her own land, perhaps with some vertical farming and housing opportunities. She does and wants to continue to provide opportunities for people like her, perhaps those for whom single parenthood or other circumstances didn’t allow them to finish college, or those with convictions that limit their careers and create tensions within what workspaces they can access.
Abundance calls herself unfocused, but recalls detailed journals she’s kept since her youth, noting how she would plan experiences right down to their smells. Wilmington would be an grateful home base for the desires she’s expressed for the future:
“I want Drop Squad Kitchen to be the premier vegan joint in the US.”
“I want Drop Squad Kitchen in every food desert. Drop Squad Kitchen worldwide. A physical location, servicing that community and teaching people to give people healthy food. People on the come up, a whole organization thing. Every single product I have could be in every grocery store. Seasonings, salad dressing, our own drinks.”
She says she is working on bylaws to make Drop Squad Kitchen a nonprofit. At a minimum, the mission will be to serve as a venue where people can receive training in home economics.
One imagines it shouldn’t be difficult to establish nonprofit status, as Drop Squad Kitchen is the “mothership” for so much that could be called “programs and services.” From hiring people to learn about the food service industry, to helping people get placed into other jobs, to taking on short-term high school interns, to helping people establish cottage industries, to aiding people with housing arrangements.
This statement sums up Abundance Child:
“Even if I only make minimum wage here, I am so rich. I’m unapologetically wealthy and no one can tell me anything. I’m in the womb of something I created.”
We ask all our Women Who Rock this question: “At the end of the day, when you get in your car, what’s playing on your speakers?”
Abundance: “Tobe Nwigwe.”