Insects Are the Sushi of the Future, says Kremena Dervenkova

Kremena Dervenkova took her current job as entrepreneurship advocate because of her love for bugs. Or, rather, because she likes snacking on them.

Kremena Dervenkova, insect lover

Wait, what? Let’s go back to the beginning. Kremena loves dancing and sports and has always been interested in healthy eating. She is also interested in issues such as sustainable food production and ways to counteract the effects of global warming. She is a born entrepreneur who is not afraid to try new things.

Three years ago, while she was looking for recipes for energy bars, Kremena came across an American startup making food from insects—and this became her “Eureka!” moment. The idea of producing food from insects, a readily renewable resource that can be grown in harmony with nature, appealed to her greatly. After doing some research, Kremena realized two things: 1) insects are set to become the next major phenomenon in gastronomy, and 2) her vocation is to tell this to the world by starting a business making insect-based food.

Her entrepreneurial ambitions led her to take part in the America for Bulgaria Foundation’s Summer Entrepreneurship Program in 2016. By providing training at Babson College, one of the most prestigious business schools worldwide, in seven years, the program helped more than 200 Bulgarian students and young professionals receive both the theoretical business knowledge and practical skills needed to successfully start and manage their own companies. Program alumni created a network of like-minded individuals set on promoting entrepreneurship and contributing to the development of an active civil society in Bulgaria. This informal network grew into the Association of Bulgarian Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE), and today Kremena is its organizational leader.

Kremena Dervenkova, insect market shopping

During the day, Kremena is responsible for promoting the association’s activities and fostering an atmosphere of togetherness among its members. Her evenings and weekends are devoted to her favorite entomophagy—the practice of eating insects. She’s very enthusiastic about insect consumption and dreams of a culinary revolution in Bulgaria. She experiments with cricket flour, baked bamboo worms, and dried silkworms. She grows crickets at home and often asks friends to sample her culinary masterpieces (her raw cricket flour cakes are delicious!).

Due to legislative barriers, she hasn’t been able to start her insect-based food business yet. However, this does not mean Kremena has abandoned the idea. She often attends international exhibitions and conferences on the subject, such as the Food Innovation Summit in Milan, attended by former US Secretary of State John Kerry this year and President Barack Obama last year. Kremena’s passion for bugs has taken her to destinations such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, where she samples bug delicacies, gets inspiration, and obtains ingredients for her gastronomic experiments.

Insect delicacies by Kremena DervenkovaWhy insects? Insects contain proteins that are easily absorbed by the human body, contain no artificial ingredients and hormones, do not pollute the environment through harmful emissions (unlike cattle), and are easily renewable. All these factors make them perfect for human consumption, Kremena says. Insects can be used in salads, baked foods, stews, desserts, and many other dishes, and they also taste great—a bit like nuts or roast shrimp. Hornets taste like raw cashews.

In the face of skepticism, Kremena points out, with a big smile on her face, that the average person consumes about a pound of insects a year anyway—in the form of honey, chocolate, jam, and others. The red color in some foods and cosmetics, for example, is extracted from beetles.

Kremena is convinced that it is only a matter of time before insects become a staple food. “Eating sushi was unimaginable 25 years ago in the States, but now, it’s one of the most popular dishes,” she says.

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