Mouthwatering, bite-sized pasta with shrimp in a garlicky sauce, grilled avocado stuffed with vegetable pate and delicious new potatoes topped with tomatoes, succulent chicken breast and cheese.
This is not your usual organic fare. In fact, this menu is a far cry from the “yuppy, food that tastes like grass” that has become associated with natural cuisine.
Chad Cherry, 28, Roosevelt Desir, 26, Andre Walker, 34, and Kirk Nelson, 27, are on a mission to change the face of organic food. As owners of the catering service Be Organic, the men infuse fun, spice and flavor into food that is also good for you.
“We make food with flavor. We spice it up. We add the Caribbean, we add the jerk, we add the cayenne. We have fun with it,” Cherry explained.
At a recent awards event for local journalists, the buzz about the tasty bowtie seafood pasta made its way around the room almost as swiftly as news that legendary newsman Dwight Lauderdale had entered the building. As a roaming saxophonist filled the lobby of the historic Lyric Theater with smooth jazz, guests nibbled on delectable hors doeuvres while sipping green tea and natural fruit punch.
Personal health issues led the men to discover organic fare. Cherry, a diabetic who once tipped the scales at 315 pounds and Desir, a cancer survivor, credit their embrace of organic food with reversing their health issues.
Cherry is navigating a temporary plateau after losing 60 pounds, and Desir has outlived the bleak, six-month prognosis doctors gave him over three years ago.
Connected by their love of great food and introductions by mutual friends who knew they belonged together, the four hip black men have grown accustomed to the surprised looks and requests for the boss when they serve their organic creations to clientele at corporate events.
Cherry said, “When we go out, the first thing we get is people looking at us like, you guys are cooking organic food, yeah, right, “Who’s your boss?”
Doubts about the men and the food dissolve after one taste.
“Once you get people to taste it, and once they get to know us, they love us and they come back. We are so different from the stereotype of what you get for organic,” Cherry said.
Cherry and Nelson honed their skills as owners at “A,’’ a-now defunct organic French Caribbean restaurant in Miami’s Design District. Cherry met the former owners when he convinced them to add the diabetic-friendly beverage he sold to the menu.
Sensing that the men might be receptive to something different, the owner offered to serve them an organic meal – which led to a discussion about purchasing the restaurant and an eventual change of ownership. Because the purchase agreement afforded the men the opportunity to buy the restaurant over an extended period of time, they lost out when the owner decided to sell it to an interested buyer for cash.
The men harbor no ill will, actually acknowledging the failed restaurant experience as critical to Be Organic’s success.
“The original owner, he showed Kirk how to do some of the basics –– he maybe gave him seven or eight recipes. Kirk being a natural, perfected those to where the clientele was like, ‘We like your food better than Mark’s (the original owner).”
The dessert expert of the bunch, Cherry said the group continued to try new foods in different ways.
“We’d put it on the menu to see how people responded and over the course, we got a chance to build a really good following and perfect our skills,” he said.
That loyal following and perfection of skills landed “A’’ on Miami New Times’ annual best of list for 2007.
After the restaurant folded, the men took a short time to regroup before starting Be Organic in 2007. The mobile company offers catering; a personal chef service that brings a fine dining experience – complete with table cloth, silverware and centerpiece –– to customers’ homes, and a growing line of products that is available on the website, Neweraorganic.com.
The four men live in Boca Raton and provide their services in the tri-county area, from Miami to Palm Beach.
Their passion for what they do is apparent. Although 99 percent of what they eat is organic, they encourage people new to the idea to take baby steps.
“Something as small as changing 50 percent of what you eat or even 25 percent will make a difference in your condition,” Cherry said.
Their goals include educating the black community about the benefits of eating organic, and becoming national personalities.
“We literally call ourselves the new face of organic. When they’re looking for experts on organic stuff, when they’re looking for fresh, fun ideas, we want them talking about Be Organic,” Cherry said.
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. From left to right, Chad Cherry, Andre Walker, Roosevelt Desir and Kirk Nelson prepare organic delights.