September 3, 2008
Delivery chef unable to savor his culinary success
Crab cakes drizzled with zesty chipotle lime sauce and peppercorn brandy glazed pork loin are a few of the entrées The Fresh Diet delivers to clients. But its Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, who developed most of the dishes offered on the meal-delivery program's menu, has never actually sampled his own dishes, which have been praised by Phil Lempert, food trends editor for NBC's "Today."|
While it might seem odd for a head chef to have not tasted any of his or her own creations, Yosef Schwartz can't; he keeps kosher.
The Fresh Diet is one of about 50 meal-delivery programs nationwide that can help take the time-consuming preparation -- as well as portion-control and guesswork -- out of eating healthy. In the next few weeks, Miami-based Fresh Diet will start delivering to homes and offices in Los Angeles. And if there's enough of a call for it, Schwartz is hoping to start a kosher version of Fresh Diet here after he returns to the Southland this month.
Schwartz, 27, grew up in Westwood and Mar Vista, attended Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad near Hancock Park and received his smicha in Israel. While you can call him a rabbi, he would rather be thought of as a chef.
Schwartz wanted to cook from the time he was a teenager. His rabbi father and rebbetzin mother would host 50 people for dinner each Friday night, and Schwartz says he would spend Thursdays and Fridays after school cooking with his mother. "I knew by 14 years old that I wanted to go to culinary school," he said.
After he received his rabbinic degree in 2001, Schwartz immediately applied to California Culinary Academy to hone a variety of cooking skills.
"My parents were very supportive," he said.
As far as working with treif ingredients like pork and shellfish at California Culinary Academy and now Fresh Diet, Schwartz says it took some getting used to.
"Once I started working with the product, I was really fine with it," he said. "There are other senses besides taste. I like to think of myself as a food technician."
Schwartz worked with a variety of local kosher caterers while he studied in Pasadena. And after graduating from California Culinary Academy in 2004, his high school friends encouraged him to consider joining them to start a food-delivery business based on Dr. Barry Sears' Zone Diet, which features 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent proteins and 30 percent good fats.
The prices for the Fresh Diet delivery service, which currently reaches South Florida, Chicago and the New York Tri-State area, range from $35 to $60 per day. The meals are delivered in cooler bags overnight and include three entrees and two snacks.
"We've had people who said they've saved money," he said, referring to busy clients who would tend to eat in restaurants several times each day. "It's basically a little present at your door every morning."
Schwartz says exercise and his own kosher version of the meal system have helped him lose weight. He weighed 300 pounds when he started the business with his friends. His shirt size has since gone from XXL to large, having dropped down to 210 pounds.
"I was thinking about doing it kosher before we even started the company," he said, adding that it would take 30 to 50 subscribers to start a similar kosher service in the Southern California. "If there's a demand for it, we will do it."