18111 Q Street
Two and a half years ago chef Caleb Summers and Jason Fechter listed an ad on Craigslist to provide prepared meal service. Their first customer requested Paleo-friendly food—free of wheat, grain, dairy, and processed sugar—which they cooked in their apartment kitchen. Today, they are the owners of Evolve Paleo Chef, which has more than 100 employees, including six full-time chefs in an 8,000 sq. ft. kitchen, store fronts in four cities, and prepares more than 10,000 meals per week.
How does a two person operation grow so quickly? According to Caleb, it’s because people love their food. “I’m a classically trained chef who loves French cuisine full of richness, depth, and flavor,” he said. “I like cooking meals that take time to make with stock reductions and melting onion and garlic. We make everything from scratch and do it the way any chef would if they owned their own restaurant. It’s cooking like your grandmother did, but most people don’t have time to do it anymore.”
The company is headquartered in Kansas City, MO, where the chefs share an office and have weekly meetings to plan the menus, discuss ideas, and share recipes. “A lot of the recipes are influenced by our backgrounds and childhoods,” Caleb said. The lemon pepper chicken was the first dish he made as a child, so he found a way to make it Paleo-friendly, which is the approach they take with all their menu items. “We don’t take a Paleo entrée and try to make it taste good,” he said. “We start with a delicious recipe and make it Paleo-friendly.”
For example, they took a traditional chocolate molten lava cake, often served in fine restaurants and made with chocolate, flour, and refined sugar, and instead made it with high quality dark chocolate, almond flour, and coconut sugar. “We test all of our items, and sometimes it takes four to six tries before we have something that tastes good and we like it,” Caleb said. “We want our food to be delicious. Just because it’s pale, doesn’t mean it has to be bland or boring.”
Weekly menus are posted on the web site, and customers can order online by Midnight every Thursday then pick up the food on Sunday or Monday. Items include three breakfast choices, two soups, two salads, eight entrees that are beef, pork, chicken, or seafood, two desserts, and a number of dry food pantry items and snacks such as the popular granola-like Paleo balls that are available anytime at their store fronts, the newest of which is located on 180th & Q Streets in Omaha.
Grab ‘n Go items are available at the store, which are similar to “adult lunchables” as Caleb called them. They are heavy snacks, or light meals, that include a chicken breast or other protein, vegetables with dipping sauce, and trail mix. All are available for $5. The Omaha store also does all of its own cold-pressed juicing, which is available every day. Caleb said they try to price all of their items moderately, but feels the delicious food and convenience are worth it.
“I think we’re a great value,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about what to cook for dinner, standing in long lines at the grocery store, or cleaning your kitchen. Instead, you can spend that time with your family, at the gym, or doing other things you enjoy.” The health benefits are also a plus. Caleb said they can’t guarantee weight loss, but many people do experience it on a Paleo diet.
Above all, Evolve Paleo Chef wants people to just try their food. First time customers are given a complimentary entrée, and returning customers are able to make special requests with any item. For example, if somebody doesn’t want bacon, they can simply indicate that with their order. “Our best advertising is for you to try it,” Caleb said. “We think you’ll love it. And whether you’re doing it for the Paleo aspect or not, it’s healthy, delicious food.”