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Sunday, June 19, 2011

LYFE Kitchen: Finally Fast Food For Flavor and Fitness

Chances are you haven't seen this logo but odds are it will soon become very familiar. L.Y.F.E. is an acronym that stands for Love Your Food Everyday. It is a brand new quick service restaurant (QSR) concept coming to fruition quickly with some very formidable culinary and food industry experts behind it.

Healthy food and big flavors are not normally synonymous but LYFE Kitchen rallied two of the biggest names in both fields to create their tasty menus that are not only healthy but organic and primarily from local sources. My first photo is of the dynamic team of celebrated chefs, Tal Ronnen and Art Smith. This team packs a serious one/two punch with Chef Ronnen creating the vegan/vegetarian dishes and Chef Smith making sure the heartiest meat eaters will also be satisfied.

Chefs Ronnen and Smith pose playfully and cook up a storm for us.

Chef Art Smith has been called "America's Family Table Chef" because he is known for his southern style comfort food. He has been a personal chef for Oprah. His cookbooks, television appearances and philanthropy have lead to two James Beard Awards. He owns Table Fifty-Two restaurant in Chicago which is a favorite of President Obama as well as Art and Soul restaurant in Washington D.C. However, Chef Art Smith knows all too well the importance of diet and exercise as he struggled with diabetes himself. His personal wake up call at 50 years old lead to a fitness regimen that resulted in his weight loss of nearly 100 pounds. Chef Smith is also a ardent supporter of the less fortunate communities and founded his Common Threads organization in 2003 to teach low income children the value of nutrition. His combination of experience, celebrity and integrity are unmatched for the person leading the LYFE Kitchen project as Executive Chef.

Here Chef Smith is dusting a boneless, skinless chicken breast with Panko bread crumbs. This technique is one of several tricks to get more fried chicken flavor without the fat and calories.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts get a dusting of Panko bread crumbs by Art

Chef Smith's dish was finished off beautifully with roasted brussel sprouts, butternut squash,  some cranberries and a mustard sauce.

Chicken Breast with Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Cranberries

LYFE Kitchen's founders were genius to also bring on board Chef Tal Ronnen as consulting chef. Chef Ronnen is the rock star of the vegan and vegetarian culinary world. His credentials and story of rising to the top of his field just resonate. Here is just a sampling from his own website:

Chef Tal Ronnen is one of the most celebrated vegan chefs working today. In the spring of 2008, he became known nationwide as the chef who prepared vegan meals for Oprah Winfrey's 21-day vegan cleanse. He has since catapulted to fame, catering Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi's vegan wedding, Arianna Huffington's party at the Democratic National Convention, and the first vegan dinner at the U.S. Senate. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, Chef Tal has worked at the top vegan restaurants in the United States, including Sublime in Fort Lauderdale, Madeleine Bistro in Los Angeles, and Candle 79 in New York City. He also assisted Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders in opening her restaurant, VegiTerranean in Akron, Ohio, in 2007.

While we watched with amazement Tal worked side-by-side with Art Smith and prepared a faux meat dish. I am very excited about tasting Tal's contributions to the LYFE menu. In this carnivorous world where meat normally takes center stage on the plate the vegetarian options are often just a nod by restaurants.  The folks at LYFE Kitchen plan to buck that trend and in a very tasty way.

 Tal completes his "beef-less" tips and vegetable stir fry in a ginger sauce

Although brown rice could be used Tal served his dish over a combination of farro and quinoa grains. These super food grains have had limited exposure mostly in the bulk food isles of health food stores but LYFE Kitchen is about to change that by bringing them into a mainstream restaurant menu as viable choices over more typical starches like potatoes.

I've sung the praises of the LYFE Kitchen culinary team. The other part of the formula which adds up to certain success is their A-List management group. Pictured here are several of the key players performing their very first "forklifting" on the sidewalk in front of their flagship store at 167 Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto.

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

The Executive Team Line Up at LYFE is heavily loaded with talent and experience.

Mike Roberts, CEO – Former President and COO for McDonald's Corporation
Stephen Sidwell, Founder – CEO of Devante Capital
Mike Donahue, CCO – Former CCO and External Relations Officer for McDonald's Corporation
Matt Yahes, VP of Strategy and Execution, Restaurants
Todd Buchanan, VP Planning and Execution
Adrienne Weiss, Brand Strategist Consultant

What surprises and excites me the most is the part of their mission statement to emphasize local food sources. Although it has become a bit of a cliche at the high end restaurants nobody in the mainstream QSR world is dedicating themselves to local sourcing like LYFE. One such supplier of organic local produce we met was David Tuttle of Jacob Farms whose packaged herb products have been a staple in the produce drawers of my refrigerator for years.

David offered samples of produce, herbs and edible flowers from Jacob Farms

My parting shot is of a colorful bouquet of baby bell peppers that brightened this happy event. This whole LYFE Kitchen project just feels right. The time has come for affordable, healthy, food from responsibly sourced ingredients to be tasty and accessible to the masses. If anyone can pull this off, it is the people behind LYFE Kitchen. They also have big plans to bring their brand into supermarkets. They will expand to a neighborhood near you where you can love your food everyday and I cannot wait to see that happen. Their debut in Palo Alto, California is set for this August. The future for LYFE is as bright as this bouquet of baby bells!

Accompanying me on this fantastic Forklifting event was my fellow foodie friend, Stacie Tamaki.  To see her post of the festivities on The Flirty Blog just click here.


  1. The food in those photos looks amazing, I am literally getting hungry right now.

  2. I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well. Good food brings people together. Finger food is best suited for all occasions, it is light and people love eating it. Keep posting!


  3. Great to see people who are making an effort towards healthier eating... Well done In-Deed!