When Watt Sriboonruang arrived in the United States in 2005, she worked as a photographer for local New York City restaurants and often traveled the world on freelance photo assignments for luxury brands like Coach. But whenever she missed her home country, she turned to two pastimes to reconnect with her native Thailand: food and fighting.
Sriboonruang, then a pescatarian, reveled in cooking traditional recipes learned from her mother (mostly Thai curry dishes rich with coconut milk, seafood and vegetables). “I think I’ve gone to at least 20 kitchens in New York City just to cook for friends,” she says, “and when I travel to other countries, I would bring Thai ingredients with me to cook for my hosts.”
Her second newfound pastime involved a bit more grit. She explored various mixed martial art gyms throughout New York to practice Muay Thai, a combat sport originating from Thailand. She eventually found her home base at Kings Thai Boxing in midtown Manhattan and began to compete in the amateur circuit. She genuinely enjoyed the art of Muay Thai striking, but while the sport itself was fun and exhilarating, cutting weight to qualify for certain fight divisions was not.
She says the extremely strict dieting can drain fighters more than the physical training itself. “Cutting weight could be its own sport,” says Sriboonruang. “It takes so much mental toughness and discipline.”
To prep for her fifth fight in 2012, she tried a vegan diet. Not only was she able to cut weight effortlessly without feeling weary or hungry but felt more energetic and fulfilled than ever. She stuck to the plant-based diet but admittedly missed indulging in desserts, which are often packed with dairy. After experimenting with some ingredients, she started Rawsome Treats with her husband and business partner Chris Kwiatkowski, also a professional Muay Thai fighter and trainer. Their line of vegan pies are entirely raw, plant-based, gluten-free and paleo-friendly. Instead of using refined sugar for sweet fillings, she turned to agave, cacao nibs, coconut oil and dates. Instead of flour and wheat, she formulated pie crusts made of crushed cashews, pecans and young coconut meat.
When Sriboonruang first started, she didn’t plan to start a business at all. “I took it one day at a time and one pie at a time. I only had to spend on ingredients since I didn’t have to pay for rent, marketing or staff.”
First she began sharing slices with fellow fighters as she understood the pain of being on a restrictive diet. “They’re so grumpy and hate the world because of the intensity of fight camp,” says Sriboonruang. “When you share the same pain and happiness…