For our monthly series “Meet The Kitchen Purveyor,” we sat down with Joshua Scott Onysko of Pangea Organics to get to know him a little bit better. Here’s what he had to say:
Can you tell me about your childhood?
Let’s see…When I was 16, I dropped out of school and worked as a bar-back in Rhode Island and bought a 1973 Westphalia Volkswagen bus. When I was 17 or 18 I moved to Vermont to be a ski bum, and when I got up there I realized I loved the mountains. There was counter-culture there. People were thinking differently than what I had been around in West Warwick. After Vermont, I moved to Nantucket, then I moved to Block Island, and then to Jackson Hole. I moved down to Costa Rica for the turtles, and I went back to Jackson Hole. I moved to California for a little bit, and went back to Jackson Hole again. I woke up one morning, and realized I love trains. I wanted to ride trains, so I bought a one way ticket to Bombay.
You’ve explored a lot of the world! How did your family respond to you purchasing a ticket to Bombay?
I told my mom I was leaving for India and she freaked out. I went home to visit her, we were making dinner and I saw this little coffee table book called “How to make Handmade Soap.” I still have it. I thought it was cool how you can make soap from things at the grocery store. So we made soap. I took the soap to India and got inspired to source ingredients from all over the world.
It sounds like moving to India had a big impact on your future endeavors. How long has Pangea Organics been around?
It’s going to be 15 years this spring. We have all kinds of people at Pangea. Not everyone’s doing yoga, not everyone eats a clean diet, but they all care passionately about one aspect of us. It might be the packaging; it might be the women’s cooperatives; it might be the organic; it might be the efficacy of the product. We came up with this term, “Nurturing Vitality,” which is based on what we’re about.
Pangea has won quite a few awards for innovation. Can you tell us more?
We’ve won 55 awards total, and I think about half of them are for our packaging. A lot of people ask us why our packaging is brown, and its because brown keeps out all UVA and UVB light. We also spend a lot of time looking at the waste stream of the packaging. We’re always making sure that our plastics are recyclable. All of our packaging is screen printed, so it reduces waste by about 40%. We also use glass whenever possible. Our soap packaging is something that we’re really known for. Pangea uses recycled newsprint, which is like an egg crate carton, and we put seeds into the molded fiber so people can plant our soap packaging and grow a tree.
You talk about skin as our largest organ, our pores as tiny little mouths?
Your skin absorbs most of what you put on it, and it needs the same type of nutrition as
you’d want to orally consume. It needs antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, skin cell reintegrating ingredients. If you push all the pores on your body together, they equal the size of your mouth.
When did Pangea make an appearance at The Kitchen?
When The Kitchen first opened downstairs in Boulder I brought Pangea to Kimbal and Hugo. Within a couple of months Pangea was there, and now Pangea is in every Kitchen restaurant around the country.
What are you doing for the rest of the day?
After this interview, I’m going to Pangea and I have to answer some more questions for another interview via correspondence. Then I have a meeting with my CEO and I’m doing a review of all our vendors to make sure they’re in line with our values. I have a meeting with our contract manufacturer this afternoon. I’m also writing some more, and I’m going to the grocery store to buy a bunch of food because I’m making dinner with friends who are up at my house, cutting all of my herbs from my garden and drying them for the winter. Tonight, I’m going to sit in my hot tub, drink wine and watch the sky get all swirly.
Last question. What’s your favorite color?
Oooh, I kind of like a moss; anything in the moss family, from that burnt sienna all the way to the vibrant greens. That’s my happy place, because I love lichen. I really like lichen and moss. I would marry lichen and moss.