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Friday, June 17, 2011

LYFE Kitchen: The Evolution of Delicious, Affordable, Healthy Restaurant Food

When LYFE Kitchen opens later this summer it's going to help Bay Area residents make only great food choices. LYFE is a clever acronym for "Love Your Food Everyday."

Diners will choose between meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes that are delicious, affordable, convenient and for those of you counting calories: Every dish will be under 600 calories.

Their breakfast, lunch and dinner menus will be prepared using wholesome ingredients featuring responsibly sourced ingredients from local farms and sustainable produce whenever possible. They are also working with the Global Animal Partnership because they believe farm animal welfare matters.

And for those who don't live in the Bay Area, LYFE Kitchen meals will also be available at a national grocery store chain so that nationwide, hungry people will have access to LYFE's affordable, delicious and low calorie dishes.

Yesterday morning celebrated Chefs Tal Ronnen (left) and Art Smith (right) were in town to help launch the new and first of its kind LYFE Kitchen restaurant. I had a front row view of their cooking demo! From the LYFE Kitchen press release:
"Chef Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and a two‐time James Beard Foundation Award winner, is a restaurateur and cookbook author known for his delicious, classic comfort food. He is also the founder of Common Threads, which strives to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well‐being and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. Recently, he has received attention for his own 100‐pound weight loss, which he achieved through a balanced diet and exercise."
"Chef Tal Ronnen is reputed as one of the most ground‐breaking vegan and vegetarian chefs today. In addition to preparing meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21‐day vegetarian and vegan diet exploration (and also being named as the “Best Vegan Chef” on her “Best Of” show), he has cooked for Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi and Arianna Huffington, and prepared the first vegan dinner at the US Senate. His cookbook, The Conscious Cook, was a New York Times bestseller."

My foodie friend Carl (check out his blog post about this event by CLICKING HERE) and I headed up to Palo Alto to enjoy the Fork Lifting Ceremony at the soon-to-be-opened location at 167 Hamilton Avenue just one block east of University Avenue and one block north of Alma. It's right next door to where The Bead Shop used to be.

These photos were provided by LYFE Kitchen

The Brand Ambassadors: Chef Tal Ronnen, Chef Art Smith, Gold and Silver Medal Olympian Janet Evans, Dr. Anthony Cardillo and Dr. Armand Dorian all spoke at yesterday's ceremony.

Dr. Dorian in particular said something that resonated deeply with me. He talked about how cures, treatments and medications are after the fact and that 75% of our country's health problems "can be prevented if you eat the proper food." I think this is such an important message. Ranging from Cardiovascular Disease (heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure) to Type II Diabetes and even uncommon conditions like scurvy which *jaw droppingly* still occurs in the United States, the majority of our nation's health woes are all too often attributable to a lack of proper nutrition. So rather than worry about a cure (when possible) why not prevent ourselves from becoming sick in the first place?

There was a gorgeous display of fresh, organic produce onsite. I had a great conversation with David Tuttle of Jacobs Farm, a certified organic farm located in Pescadero, CA. I've mentioned Pescadero before. It's where the Harley Farms Goat Dairy I blogged about in May is located. The restaurant will be sourcing fresh herbs and some produce from Jacobs Farm.

Before the ceremony Tal and Art did a sidewalk cooking demo.

The Panko Breaded Chicken Prepped to Cook

Art is a comfort food specialist and made Southern Oven Unfried Chicken which can be sauteed or baked. There will be no deep fryers or microwaves at the restaurant. The chicken breasts are soaked in buttermilk then rolled in whole wheat panko bread crumbs.

Instead of added salt the chicken is flavored with grated parmesan cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, hot red pepper, paprika and butter flavored spray oil.

Is your mouth watering?

Cooking the Chicken

I had to show you the bottom half of Art's outfit. He was SO styling in his side zipper capri pants with sneakers! Loved them!

Southern Oven Unfried Chicken

After finishing the chicken Art added roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and dried cranberries then plated his dish on a flavorful glaze. Yum!

Tal was whipping up an Ancient Grains Bowl using farro and quinoa (brown rice can be substituted), Gardein brand beefless tips, red onion, sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, carrot, cilantro, green onion, lime wedges and a custom ginger sauce.

The dish looked and smelled delicious! I usually don't care for faux meat products but I will give this dish a try once LYFE Kitchen opens if it's on the menu!

My next book purchase will be The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen. I got to chat with him a bit after the ceremony and he was really nice. It was while watching him cook that I realized that even though I went vegetarian (part time vegan) a year ago I haven't purchased any vegetarian cookbooks. I've been cooking from regular books omitting and substituting meat based ingredients.

LYFE Kitchen's CCO and former McDonalds executive Michael Donahue was our MC.

The First Ever Fork Lifting

From the left: Chef Tal Ronnen, Registered Dietician Karen Knoblaugh, LYFE Kitchen Founder Stephen Sidwell, CEO Mike Roberts, National Mom Advisory Panelist Janet Evans, Dr. Anthony Cardillo, Dr. Armand Dorian and Chef Art Smith.

Founder Steven Sidwell said yesterday he believes LYFE Kitchen can make a difference in the food industry. I know he's right. I think we've reached the tipping point of eating unhealthy, over processed, chemical, trans fat, sodium and sugar laden foods that diminish the quality of our lives and shorten the lives of those who refuse to recognize that these foods are not what we were meant to eat. As an occasional treat? Sure, I eat plenty of things that aren't healthy. But I eat them in small portions and intermittently balancing them with plenty of healthy meals.

I think the national conversation Jamie Oliver started with his tv show, the Food Revolution, and a restaurant like LYFE Kitchen are the beginnings of the new evolution of how we will choose the food we'll eat. I truly hope that as a nation we'll all eat better as healthy food options become less expensive, more tasty and more accessible.

I took this picture of Carl and Art Smith together. Sometimes I wish I liked having my picture taken but I usually avoid it at all costs. Still, a picture of me, or perhaps I should say with me, appeared on the LYFE Kitchen Facebook page last night.

This Photo by Liza Gershman

See me? I'm the one in the hat just to the left of Videographer Aaron Lee's tripod. I'd been by the restaurant two days before while attending a Girl Geek Dinner and realized that this would probably be a sidewalk event so I was the only one in the crowd wearing a hat which was great because it was quite sunny. LOL It pays to be prepared.

My hat also made it into the event recap blog post of The Granola Chronicles. You can't miss it.

I'll be keeping you posted when LYFE Kitchen opens and am thinking I might have to do a breakfast, lunch and dinner blog post where I'll spend the entire day in Palo Alto and eat all three meals at the restaurant all in one day :)

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