0 comments on “Celebrating Earth Day as a Team!”

Celebrating Earth Day as a Team!

Last year we wrote an article about the small changes that you can make at the office (or at home) to protect the Earth. This year we’re focused on advocating for actions that your office can take as a team to improve the Earth together! Whether you’re doing this on Earth Day (Monday, April 22nd) or any day in April, it’s important to take part in this global movement to preserve our planet and prevent the destruction of our plant and wildlife populations. Encourage your team to make an impact by organizing a company-wide event, even if it’s only for a few hours!

Below we’ve listed ideas of activities that your office can do to celebrate Earth Day. Although it may seem insignificant, doing a small act of green with your colleagues can make a much larger impact. And not only is it rewarding to give back to the planet we live on, you have another reason to celebrate with your coworkers! Email us at letseat@foodtoeat.com to order some custom Earth Day treats for you and your team to enjoy after helping to protect our planet!

1. Plant a tree. Planting trees is one of the easiest ways to fight climate change. Not only does it add beauty to the environment, trees absorb CO2 and other harmful gases and release more oxygen into the atmosphere. They also provide a habitat for birds and other animals.

2. Clean up a local park or beach. All this activity requires is gloves, garbage bags and free time! Choose a park or beach close to your office and spend an hour or two picking up trash that may be cluttering the area. Cleaning up parks and beaches helps to improve air and water quality and keeps animals from getting injured or killed by items such as plastic bags, string, cigarette butts and glass.

3. Schedule an outdoor activity. The best way to increase appreciation for the environment is to get outdoors! Book group workout in Central Park or plan a hike for your team at a nearby mountain. Being around nature will remind employees why it’s so important to take care of our planet and continue acts of green all year round.

4. Host a meat-less lunch! Can’t get out of the office? Organize a team lunch with vegetarian or vegan menu items only! According to the Earth Day Network, the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gases. Limiting your meat consumption, even one day a year, can help lower the amount of greenhouse gases emitted each year.


0 comments on “Leo Kremer, Co-CEO of Dos Toros: Part 1”

Leo Kremer, Co-CEO of Dos Toros: Part 1

This is Leo Kremer (pictured left) and his brother, Oliver Kremer (pictured right), the founders and co-CEOs of Dos Toros. Although this fast casual taqueria now boasts 20 locations between New York and Chicago, Leo insists that because they didn’t know much coming into the food industry, they’ve kept their “beginner’s mindset” over the years, which has allowed them to see Dos Toros as a constantly evolving business, even as it’s success has grown. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, the brothers got really interested in burritos because they were delicious, affordable and available everywhere. It wasn’t until years later that they became aware that this wasn’t the case in other parts of the country and started digging into this idea. They began asking friends who lived in New York what options were available to them and did some scouting themselves. The more they looked, the more they realized that there was no really high-quality, California-style Mexican food outside of California. And although they had no experience in the food industry, it seemed like a really big opportunity for someone to take advantage of the market. Being that they were expert consumers when it came to burritos, they decided to create a business that appealed to their core customer: themselves. Since Dos Toros’ beginning to their present day operations, Leo and Oliver have continued to keep things really simple and really focused, uncompromising in their expertise and concentrated on being the best supplier of San Fransciso-style taqueria food, from their recipes to their service to the tightness of their burrito roll.

Leo says that he and Oliver were outsiders in the food industry when they decided to start Dos Toros (named for himself and Oliver, “the two bulls”) at the end of 2008 and officially opened their first location in October 2009. Leo was just transitioning out of his career as a musician (he had played for a few rock bands, including Third Eye Blind), which he says was awesome but ultimately didn’t fulfill all of his professional passions, and Oliver was right out of college. Both brothers were unsure of their next step and decided to pursue the burrito business idea that they had been talking about for years. They had always had a good relationship and always had the idea that they would try to start a business together but Leo says that it was the timing, their passion for burritos and the opportunity that presented itself that made it the perfect combination of factors to jump in with both feet. He doesn’t believe that either of them would’ve had the courage to do it on their own so they took a chance on it together and moved to NYC. They decided on a fast casual concept because it was similar to the taquerias in the Bay Area that they visited growing up where you order at the counter and sit down or leave. And also knowing that they didn’t know anything about food service, they didn’t want to overreach and add more complexity to the business than they could manage. Since they always thought of themselves as their main consumers, most of the restaurant design came from their own personal taste and aesthetic sensibility, which Leo says they got from their mom. Their mom is a visual artist so she’s very conscious of paying attention to how things look and feel around you, so they already had a vision in mind for their brand when they were opening their first location. They wanted to create a cool and inviting space that they would want to spend time in, in a neighborhood that they might find themselves in, so the location scouting and design process was very introspective. However, they did take a lot of other people’s opinions into consideration, showing friends and family locations that they were thinking about and design layouts and the logo that they were playing with, which was really helpful in getting to the final decisions that were made. But they knew that the core of the business would focus on the food and doing it really well. So whenever they could go simpler, they went simpler so that they could focus more on quality. 

They began reverse engineering recipes to create their menu, incorporating flavors that they grew up eating and visiting every taqueria that they could find to make notes about who had the best rice, beans, tortillas, hot sauce, etc. They spent countless hours taste testing different ingredients and understanding what they wanted each ingredient to do in the burrito before making a final decision. In some cases they were able to get the recipes pretty far just with their own testing and finding recipes and tweaking them but they did work with a couple of different chefs that they found before finding one chef in particular on Craigslist who played a big role in helping them develop their recipes. He helped them make sure that the recipes could scale up the right way and be repeatable for when they were cooking in large batches. He also helped them understand what equipment they would need to cook the food and what that cooking process would need to be since the professional equipment allows you to create heat really fast. However, Leo says that they continue to tweak recipes and introduce new items (like their habanero hot sauce and the farro, their whole-grain alternative to rice) because it’s the details that add up to the big differences. They constantly try to get feedback from customers on what they can improve or what’s bugging people the most that they can fix. But no matter what, they always focus on keeping their ingredients and menu items simple. They believe that doing a few things the best way possible is what makes them a cut above their competitors.

In the same way that they’re focused on simplicity from a recipe perspective, Leo and Oliver focus on simplicity from a team perspective as well. From training to on-boarding to career advancement, they want to make every process as straightforward and accessible to every employee as possible, because they believe that people are the key to success in business. Every employee in every store is cross trained across every different part of the restaurant. Not only does this make employees more flexible with their skills, it also keep things fun and interesting because they’re able to do different tasks and jobs throughout the day, which keeps it from getting boring or frustrating. Also, Leo says, it doesn’t seem fair to have one person stuck washing dishes all day and not interacting with customers. Leo admits that they’re getting better at training employees and helping them get on a career path without making employees have to guess about how they can grow from their current positions. They’ve started offering formal certification opportunities for employees to learn new skills, get certified on them, get a raise and get promoted. They also have a whole video training site that they use for employees to practice their skills. Each store has a CO (coach operator) rather than a GM (general manager) whose responsible for hiring new team members, training them and promoting them. They call them COs because they believe that coaching is the key piece of leadership and they empower their employees to train and coach their coworkers in a positive way, rather than from a power standpoint. The COs are then assisted by the distract manager, who oversees multiple locations and works one on one with the CO in a collaborative way when and if more complex issues arise that the CO needs help handling. Leo and Oliver are very focused on their team and creating a positive work experience because they realize that beyond the recipes and the store locations and the designs, it’s all about the people on your team and inspiring them and making them excited to be a part of the business. Employees that are happy at work and excited about what they do will only transfer that joy and excitement to customers, which creates a real relationship between the employee and the guest.

For Leo, the most rewarding and the most challenging part of the business is the people. It’s so rewarding for him to see an employee whose so good at their job and inspiring to other team members grow with the company. “Promoting people who really deserve those promotions is the best feeling you can get, I think”, he says. And then also seeing a guest whose a really excited about the food, who comes back a few times a week, who your staff really enjoys seeing and who enjoys seeing them is so rewarding as well. Building themselves into someone’s life and having people use words like “love” when they’re talking about their product or their staff is very meaningful to him. However, it’s also a challenge for Leo to push for excellence but be realistic. Every time he walks into one of their locations, it’s hard for him not to notice every little thing that’s wrong and want to fix it immediately. But communicating that to the team in the proper way and getting them to focus on these little things without seeming unappreciative of everyone’s hard work is a difficult line to walk. As a business owner, it’s hard for him to navigate that balance, especially as they grow and things are being communicated down a chain of command, rather than directly from him to the team. As a leader, he’s constantly working on that balance to make sure that things are being communicated properly but that he’s still leaving room for empowerment and improvisation among his employees. He and Oliver were both concerned that as the business grew, it would become too corporate or reduce their authenticity. Alternatively, they’ve found that their growth has actually increased the strength of their culture. Their food has also gotten better (creating better recipes, using better equipment, sourcing better ingredients) and they’ve only gotten better as leaders. As the business continues to grow, these are all factors that they hope they can preserve.

Identifying what’s right for you and your business is pivotal to Leo and he urges other entrepreneurs to stay true to their passion and their mission when starting a business. However, he advises, it’s not enough to be skilled or passionate, you need to have really identified a need that’s not being met or not being done to the level that you think it could be done. If you only have a desire to be your own boss, that can often get you into trouble. You need to make sure that there’s a case for the business that you’re getting started and that you have a clear plan to meet that need. If you keep a focus on your core customer and make sure everything you do goes back to solving a problem for that customer, then the growth will happen naturally. As for the future of Dos Toros, Leo says they’re really excited for the growth that they’re seeing and the best part about it is the opportunities that it creates for their team members to grow as well. They’re hoping to keep growing at a sustainable rate in their current markets and organically expand into new markets nearby. Right now they’re interested in areas like Philly, DC, Boston, Nashville, Austin, Charlotte, Miami and Dallas but there are so many cool places where they think Dos Toros would be a good fit. The most important thing to them is that they succeed wherever they go, so they’re focused on getting it right with their location choices and going at the right pace for them.

Interested in learning more about Dos Toros?! Check out our blog next week to read the second part of our #IMadeYourFood feature where we will be highlighting one of their longest tenured COs!


Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!



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April Events You Should Be Celebrating… with Food.

Unfortunately spring hasn’t sprung so we’re still waiting to celebrate the change of seasons with some fresh fruit and veggies and a glass of sangria (talk to us in a few weeks). But winter is coming. And so is baseball season and the last round of March Madness. And in order to prepare for these exciting April events, we’re breaking down not only what you should be celebrating but also the appropriate foods to celebrate with. Because you’ll need something to chew on during those anxiety-ridden moments other than your nails!

Final Four: The final games of March Madness will be this Saturday, April 6th before the NCAA National Championship game on Monday, April 8th. And regardless of who you have in your bracket, making sure that your snacks are on point for your watch party is a must. Below are our picks for the best food from each team’s home state and how you can re-create them for game day snacking!

Game of Thrones Premiere: The eighth and final season of GOT premieres on Sunday, April 14th and we have zero chill (pun intended). As we prepare to watch the living and the dead battle it out, there’s nothing better than taking a food-filled trip down memory lane with dishes that highlight all of the craziest moments from this iconic show. Because who doesn’t want to kill, bake and serve Walder Frey’s sons to him like Arya?!

Baseball: Baseball season has already started, with both New York teams having their home opener games within the last two weeks. And though most people think hot dogs and peanuts when they think of baseball, the options have gotten much more diverse in the last few years. So if you’re catching the game IRL, these are our go-to foods at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

Yankee Stadium:

  • Lobel’s Steak Sandwich
  • Bareburger’s Avocado Bites
  • Big Mozz’s Mozz Sticks
  • Mighty Quinn’s MQRib Sandwich

Citi Field:

  • Fuku Fried Chicken Sandwich
  • Emmy Squared Colony pizza
  • Shake Shack’s ShackBurger
  • Mister Softee Waffle Cone

Want to replicate these items at home? Here are the best recipes to make you feel like you’re at the ballgame… even when you’re sitting on your couch.



0 comments on “Jeremy Merrin, Founder & CEO of Havana Central”

Jeremy Merrin, Founder & CEO of Havana Central

This is Jeremy Merrin, the founder and CEO of Havana Central, a Cuban restaurant known for it’s large portions, live music and killer mojitos. A native New Yorker, Jeremy was working in e-commerce and looking for a career change when he decided to make a list of things that he was interested in pursuing and the idea for Havana Central, he says, “just took hold”. Even though he doesn’t come from a food background (in fact no one in his family had ever been in the food industry), he thought this idea presented the biggest opportunity and it was the one he was most excited about. The idea was inspired by a popular Latino restaurant that he lived next to called The Caridad. He started talking to a friend about the food and realized that, outside of Mexican food, there were very little full-service, high-quality restaurants serving the Hispanic market. So he started doing some research into the industry, interviewing Latino and Hispanic people as well as diners in general and eating at every Latin restaurants in the tri-state area to figure out what they were doing well and what could be improved. Through his analysis it became clear to him that there was an audience for this food and although there were a good amount of mom and pop restaurants in NYC, there weren’t any reputable, full-service concepts. So Jeremy decided to create a restaurant whose atmosphere is so immersed in the smells, sounds and tastes of Cuban culture that visiting it makes you feel like you’re taking a wonderful mini-vacation in Havana, Cuba.

Once Jeremy had identified this gap in the market, he started looking at what items were available to them, i.e. traditional Cuban dishes. He realized that since most dishes required relatively inexpensive ingredients, it would allow them to sell and deliver large platters of really good food for reasonable prices, which he thought was key for the economy in 2001. He hired a hospitality, restaurant and retail consultant, Arlene Spiegel, to help create a clear brand for the business and to get it up and running. They hired a food engineer, who helped them come up with the initial recipes for the menu but the real significant base of what they have on their current menu was created by Stanley Licairac, the first person that Jeremy hired to be a part of his team at Havana Central. Stanley was the executive chef at Havana Central for 11 years and was very talented with recipe creation, so most of their dishes are still ones that he put together. But it took about ten or eleven months of menu creation and business preparation before Jeremy was able to open their first location in 2002. And it would be a few years before he was able to fully transition Havana Central into the full-service operation that he knew it could be. 

For the first Havana Central location, Jeremy had purchased a little deli on 17th Street off of Union Square and converted it into a small restaurant with only counter service in about six weeks. The line was out the door the first day that they opened and business was so consistent that within the first three months, they were able to start doing dinner service. Dinner service very quickly became successful as well because they were selling a lot of alcohol from the small bar that they had added to the space. Jeremy realized that a lot of people were coming to the restaurant to drink and as that became a bigger factor, he began to pivot away from his initial plan of counter service. He had always wanted a full-service restaurant but their alcohol sales were so substantial that it made the bar and full-service dining more important than ever before and gave him the ability to transition from a fast- casual restaurant to a full-scale service. They reconstructed the bar in the front of the restaurant and closed off the counter at dinnertime for dinner service, eventually getting rid of the counter completely and making the entire space a full-service operation. As they continued to grow, Jeremy realized that the smaller space was no longer fitting into their capabilities, as they had become a much larger scale restaurant. And although Jeremy admits that their first location was really used as a laboratory, all of that experimenting allowed them to clearly determine what their concept was, upscale the food and to get a good handle on their operations. So by the time their 10 year lease had ended at the 17th Street location, they had already opened two 200+ person locations in Times Square (in 2005) and on the Upper West Side (in 2007).

Havana Central

Jeremy now has four Havana Central locations: Times Square, Yonkers, Long Island and New Jersey (the Upper West Side location is now closed) and at each restaurant he tries to create a family atmosphere, both in the restaurant and on the corporate side, especially because a lot of his employees have been there for 10+ years. So all of the employees are very friendly with one another and most of them have developed a group friendship where they go out together or hang out outside of work. He tries to create a collaborative environment and make sure that there’s no sense of “me against you” so that in the restaurant the back of house is working equally as well with the front of house as they are within themselves. At their core they’re a team and one can’t function properly without the other so he always promotes that belief at both at the restaurant and at their corporate office. For Jeremy, the people he works with are the best part of the job. They’re good people who he enjoys being around. However, the people is also the most difficult part of the job for him, because people are a factor that he can’t control. He can control food, labor and food costs (the basic financial variables) but he can’t control personalities, emotions and personal lives, which are much more complex. Also, there are so many different factors to consider with employees: finding the right people, making sure that they’re keeping customers happy, making sure they’re doing the right thing at the right time and making sure that they’re in positions where they can succeed. Figuring out the balance with your employees is a never ending process and an area that Jeremy is always trying to improve upon.

Although they’ve opened locations pretty consistently over the last 17 years, Jeremy would like to speed up the process. He says that Havana Central is constantly in an state of improvement and he’s always looking for ways to grow and expand the business. Outside of fear of failure, which he admits is a big motivator for him, he really enjoys what he does for a living and still very clearly envisions what the future of Havana Central could be. There are other restaurants that have already done what he wants to do with Havana Central but since the Latin market is still somewhat untapped, there is a huge market available to them and those possibilities really excite him to get to the next level. In the future he hopes to expand Havana Central across the U.S. and make it like the “Latin PF Chang’s” or the “Latin Cheesecake Factory”. But for the moment, he’s happy building the Havana Central brand, making sure that every part of every restaurant that he operates is reminiscent of Havana, Cuba and makes the customer feel as if they’re sitting in a night club or restaurant there, even if they’re only taking a lunch break.


Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!


0 comments on “What Is CBD and Why Is It In My Food?”

What Is CBD and Why Is It In My Food?

No matter what field you’re in, no one can ignore the topic of CBD as it continues to make it’s way into mainstream culture. Every day a new product is being created that incorporates it’s pain-relieving chemicals to alleviate muscle pain or it’s soothing properties to combat insomnia; there’s even CBD oil for animals now.  CBD is a growing industry that only promises to get bigger since the signing of the Farm Bill in December 2018. This bill makes it legal to produce hemp, which contains levels of CBD. And although there’s still concerns as to how it will be regulated, CBD is already on the market. In order to educate ourselves about CBD, we decided to do some research into what this substance actually is and why it’s become so popular in the NY food scene.

What is CBD?

CBD (or cannabidiol) is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis. It’s a safe, non-addictive substance that’s known for it’s therapeutic properties and unlike THC, which is also found in cannabis, it doesn’t make an individual feel intoxicated or “high”. THC is psychoactive while CBD’s properties create a feeling of relaxation and calm because it affects the receptors in the body and brain in a different way. CBD oil is created by extracting CBD from cannabis and then diluting it with a “carrier oil” such as coconut, or more commonly, hemp seed oil. 

What are the Benefits?

Although scientific research is still being done to determine if CBD can provide a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals, it has been shown to provide relief for a myriad of conditions but most notably for chronic pain, anxiety, depression and inflammation. Some studies even show that it can help reduce symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatments. But aside from the medical benefits, CBD and CBD oil have started to be sold at  health food markets and gas stations or incorporated into products at spas, cosmetic companies and even coffee shops and restaurants. So why add it to food? It’s a careful way to administer CBD and it allows the consumer to avoid inhaling through a vapor pen and irritating the lungs. When CBD is combined with food, it allows the substance to be released slowly, over long periods of time, while the food is digesting, allowing for a longer period of relaxation. Also, because most food has a specific serving size, there is a specific dose of CBD being added to food that you can measure. As opposed to inhaling CBD, which makes it difficult to measure how much CBD you’re getting each time, having it added to your food or drink makes it clear how much you’re putting into your body and allows you to understand how much you need to consume to achieve your desired result of calm or pain management.

The Jury’s Still Out.

Despite all of the noteworthy, positives effects of CBD oil, the consensus on whether or not it truly impacts the body is still unclear. Last year the FDA approved a CBD medication called Epidiolex for the treatment of certain types of pediatric epilepsy. And according to the drug exclusion rule, this means that “once a substance is the active ingredient of an approved drug, food containing that substance cannot be shipped in interstate commerce”.  So technically CBD cannot be added to any food or beverage. However, since CBD has never been proven to cause harm to an individual, the ban on CBD has never been enforced. The FDA has made minimal efforts to stop the commerce of CBD, which means that it now lives in a gray area where CBD products are created and sold but technically contain a Schedule 1 drug (listed as illegal because they have high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns). But because studies are still being done on CBD, there’s no evidence that points to if it’s a severe safety concern or a therapeutic remedy. Many healthcare professionals, and even advocates for CBD, advise caution when taking the substance because, as of right now, there’s no way to concretely measure dosage, how it should be administered or how it will interact with other drugs. But due to what we know about the chemical nature of CBD, advocates hope that soon it will be re-classified and proven to provide only clear benefits, both medically and commercially.


Picture courtesy of Blank Slate Coffee and Kitchen
0 comments on “Bari Musacchio, Owner of Baz Bagel and Restaurant”

Bari Musacchio, Owner of Baz Bagel and Restaurant

This is Bari Musacchio, the owner of Baz Bagel and Restaurant. A sociology major in college, she says that the fact that she got into the hospitality industry was “totally random” since no one in her Jewish/Italian family was in food. But when her dad told her that she needed to get a job in order to live in his Manhattan apartment during summer break and that he had hooked her up with a job at Ceci Cela Patisserie, she obliged. She started working at the counter and enjoyed it so much that she continued working there, even when she had graduated college and could only work there one day a week since she had a full-time job. When she first started working at the French pastry shop, she says she didn’t really realize why she kept going back. She just knew that she loved learning people’s names and coffee orders, meeting different customers from the neighborhood and being able to walk anywhere and have to stop and say “hi” to someone she knew. In retrospect, she sees that it was during this time that she got “bitten by the food industry bug” because she loved the neighborhood feeling that the business provided. It’s the same atmosphere that she strives to provide in her cafe, which she describes as having a “Cheers vibe”. Everything from the restaurant’s design to the food to the music was deliberately chosen to make Baz Bagel a neighborhood place where every person feels comfortable and stopping in is just part of a customer’s routine.

It wasn’t until she started doing the accounting for the wholesale business at Ceci Cela Patisserie that Bari recognized that she could turn her love for the food industry into a professional career. She had always been very academic and liked being in a job where she was actively learning and continued to feel challenged. She enrolled in the French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Center) because she felt that if she was going to commit to a career in food, she wanted to learn every aspect of the business. There she learned the basics of cooking and baking before becoming deeply interested in Italian food and wine (which she reveals is still a special passion of hers) and deciding to go to culinary school in Italy. She came back to New York for a few years after she finished her culinary courses, but later returned to Italy and worked there for a year because she loved the view of the culinary arts in Europe, “it was a whole different type of education”, she says. After returning from Italy the second time, she opened Rubirosa as the General Manager and worked there for about five years, helping to build it from the ground up. During this time, she kept noticing that there were no bagel shops on the Lower East Side, an area that she had lived and worked in for many years. Since she had grown up on Long Island, bagels were a huge part of her daily diet and she found herself traveling to the Upper West Side every weekend to get “good bagels” with her dad, which was a routine they had. She also kept remembering how often customers would come into Ceci Cela and ask if they had bagels and she would think “someone has to open a bagel place around here” because there was no routine available to their community. So in 2014, she started imagining spots in the area where she could open a bagel place and when a space opened up across the street from her apartment she decided to just take a look at it, thinking “maybe my bagel fantasy will come true”. Immediately when she walked in, she was able to envision how it could all work and decided to go for it.

Her family helped her in putting up the money to buy the restaurant but coming off of the success of Rubirosa, where they saw her work like it was her own place, they knew this endeavor was something she was extremely passionate about. Seeing the whole operation work is still one of the most rewarding parts of the business for Bari. She compares it to synchronized swimming, where everyone is moving on their own but working as a whole to create something masterful. The space she’s in has a 120 year old history. Originally an Italian deli and then a multitude of other things, it was an Italian restaurant for 10 years and then briefly a juice bar before Bari took it over. Her neighbor, Anna, used to work there as a girl when her family ran it as a luncheonette, which she showed Bari pictures of on the night that Baz opened, one of which now hangs on a wall in the restaurant. The space has been a part of the community for generations, which makes it even more special for Bari that she can continue adding to it’s history. Unfortunately the owners before her ripped out all of the original counters and fixtures so they had to bring back in the lunch counter and re-design everything. But she felt that bringing back touches of the original decor made the space even more charming and inviting. She was inspired by her trips to Florida to give it the luncheonette/diner feel rather than a grab-n-go bagel store because in Florida it’s normal to sit down, have some coffee and eat your bagel or breakfast sandwich at a table without rushing out. So she decided to create a Jewish diner that centered around bagels, even though grab-n-go may be faster and more efficient in New York. She loved the idea of sitting at a table and hanging out with friends while enjoying a delicious bagel and she wanted to create a place where she would want to hang out every day.

There’s a lot of nostalgia sprinkled throughout the restaurant, from the design to the menu to the packaging. All of the decorations in the restaurant are things that influenced Bari growing up, specifically musicians like Barbara Streisand, Carly Simon and Carole King, which were always playing around her house. Bari’s grandmother grew up on the Lower East Side and went to high school with Barbara Streisand so there was always a connection to her and the empowering message that she stood for. Bari wanted to tie these childhood influences (the influences of her grandmother’s generation) into the menu, so she took some recipes from her grandmother when creating it. Her grandmother has a recipe box full of recipe cards that she and her friends from temple wrote down and put together so she was a able to get a lot of authentic recipes for items like latkes, chicken soup, matzoh balls and matzoh brei. However, for the bagels, Bari created her own recipe. She did a lot of research into bagels (eating many different kinds) to see what she liked or disliked about them and even worked at a bagel shop in New Jersey for free in order to learn how to make them. Once she knew the process, she hired bakers to start making them and then tweaked the recipe to incorporate different elements that she liked from certain bagels until she found the perfect balance. With their packaging, Bari tries to keep the personality of the restaurant and bring it into corporate offices for catering or delivery orders. Catering is usually a side operation for other businesses but for her it’s become just as important as the retail business because every time she caters, she introduces her product to 100 people that haven’t seen it yet. She puts different images on their coffee boxes: one of her grandmother, one of Barbara Streisand, one of her cousin, Gary, in a pink suit for his prom, just to make it fun. She tries to find the joy in simple things and uses her packaging to make an impression and to keep a smile on people’s faces.

For Bari, the most rewarding part of the business is seeing people laughing in the restaurant every day and having a good time. It was really important to her that she create a space where you could “take a date, a baby or your grandmother” and each person would feel like there was something there for them. Which is why she’s not concerned with finding a niche or carving out a space for her restaurant in the food industry. She just wants to be “the neighborhood hang”, which she is, as evidenced by the customers that come into her restaurant seven days a week. She loves that she’s seen kids grow up in her store and takes pride in the fact that when a customer comes in, they’re able to forget about whatever’s going on outside the restaurant. But even though Baz Bagel is an established restaurant in the neighborhood, she admits that there’s an obstacle every single day. Which is why her advice to other entrepreneurs in the food industry is to keep with it, saying “as long as you’re prepared to deal with the challenges and control everything else that’s controllable, you’re gonna be fine”. Perseverance is the key to success for Bari, whose dad and sister both run their own businesses. She believes that the drive to succeed is in her DNA and her dad has taught her that running a business is a game of both “putting your head down and working hard” and “lifting your head up and selling”. So when so many things are going wrong and she wants to quit, she just keeps pushing through it, believing it will work out, which it always does.

As for the future of Baz, Bari says she’s enjoyed expanding “out the backdoor” with their catering and wholesales businesses rather than opening many doors with other locations. She enjoys the charm of having one location but there is demand for them to expand so she’s in the process of figuring out what that looks like. One thing that is clear to her is that whatever expansion they do end up doing, she wants to make sure that it doesn’t effect their flagship store, which is the heart and soul of her business. It’s the place that made her believe that her vision was possible and even today, after five years in business, Bari continues to say that she can’t put her finger on what it is that makes her restaurant so unique. But just like her first job at Ceci Cela, which made her fall in love with food, Baz Bagel and Restaurant is a place where there’s a constant friendly, community feeling and as Bari puts it, “something just feels special about this place”.


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Feeding Your Team with Purpose Attracts Talent and Improves Office Culture

In January 2019, Managed by Q, a workplace management platform, released their 2019 Workplace Trends Report, which focuses on the belief that a human-centered office is the new trend on the rise in the corporate world. According to their research and their experience working with companies across the U.S., the growth of responsive, interactive technology and the ascension of the “millennial” generation into the workforce and subsequently into leadership roles, has created a corporate landscape where employees are demanding more from their employers than ever before. 

Millennials have been cited for creating a more interactive approach to work and their personal lives, coining the term “work-life balance” to explain the integration of the two. This new approach has caused millennials (as well as employees of every generation) to place a high value on community and purpose-driven work, which they’re actively seeking from the companies that they work for. Due to this shift in motivation within the workplace, in their report Managed by Q identified five trends that they believe companies must adopt “to effectively attract and retain top talent”. They are: the technological evolution of human-centered workplace design; the rise of co-working and the focus on workplace hospitality; flexible workplace policies; culture is essential for employee recruitment and retention; and diversity and inclusion are fundamental business practices. However, we believe that most important of these trends is the cultivation of office culture, which is where Managed by Q specifically referenced our company. Because at FoodtoEat, our concierge catering service helps to improve office culture in three specific ways.

Managed by Q’s research shows that today “individuals seek to cultivate a greater connection to one another”, which is why we advocate for team meals in every office. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, team meals help to foster a sense of community within the office. They bring together individuals from every department and allow them to discuss common interests, examine operations for areas of improvement and interact with and learn from individuals with differing opinions and beliefs. This exchange of ideas improves team work and invites creative solutions to issues that the company may be facing. Rather than being a “perk” that looms overhead, hinting that it could be taken away at any moment, building team meals into the fabric of office life encourages a collaborative environment where co-workers rely on one another for help and reinforces the idea that perfection isn’t realistic. Mistakes help employees learn and grow and allow them to think outside the box when problem-solving or finding ways to prevent future mistakes. 

Being that employees are the most valuable asset in a company, corporate catering is also a way to recognize and reward them. Celebrating holidays, birthdays and personal and professional milestones is a way for companies to show that they understand an individual’s value and are appreciative of it. Showing appreciation for someone’s work or personal achievement is a simple yet effective way to demonstrate that, as an employer, you are invested in their happiness and honor these moments as well. Whether it’s ordering their favorite dessert or sitting down for lunch together, creating that time during the day to make an employee feel seen and respected is key to showing your commitment to them as a part of your team. That recognition increases productivity because it incentivizes employees to continue to invest their time, energy and passion into the work that they do. As Managed by Q found, “employees want to feel like work gives them a personal purpose” and purpose can only continue to be a motivating factor when it is identified and applauded.

More than the connection created through team meals or the recognition of individuals in the workplace, our mission to work with immigrant, women and minority-run food businesses throughout NYC is what sets us apart from other catering services. Employees in the corporate environment want “an opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves” and by working with our service, they’re able to directly impact their local food community. Employees are looking for companies that not only appreciate them but also have a set of values as a company that guide their decision-making and positively impact the larger public. Because of the union of work and life that employees have become accustomed to, they want to be a part of a company that connects with their personal ethics and lifestyle choices. More and more, employers are being asked about how they’re creating a cycle of social good in their communities and being held to a higher standard by their employees. Working with our company, not only does an employer reward their own employees, they also send a clear message on what they value as a brand, which attracts individuals that agree with that message and creates a strong culture of like-minded people working towards a common purpose.


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Kamola Akhmedova, Owner of Afandi Asian Grill

This is Kamola Akhmedova, the owner of Afandi Asian Grill. Afandi is a title shortened from Nasreddin Afandi, the name of a fictional character whose story of being a traveler on the Silk Road is very popular in Kamola’s native country of Uzbekistan. Kamola moved to New York in 2013 after meeting her fiance at The MET during a business trip for her parents manufacturing company. The company, which specializes in the manufacturing of ice cream and frozen foods, was looking to expand it’s product line and Kamola was meeting with clients in New York. Her husband, who is also originally from Uzbekistan, overheard her talking on the phone and struck up a conversation with her. Five months later, after dating long distance, they decided to get married and Kamola moved back to New York permanently. She says it was one of the biggest decisions she’s ever made because she had been a part of her parents company for most of her life and wasn’t sure what she would do for work in New York. But soon after getting married she got pregnant and she spent the next two years raising her son and continuing to work remotely for her parents. In 2015 her husband decided to open his own shipping company and she began helping with the business, doing the bookkeeping and running operations. However, after a while, Kamola started getting interested in the food industry again, since she had worked in it for most of her life. She began thinking about how much she loved Uzbek food but it was all so heavy and greasy; there was no modern Uzbek food that would appeal to the market in New York. So she decided to open her own fast casual restaurant that would focus on a new version of Uzbek food but still would be able to educate New Yorkers about her culture.

Uzbekistan is located in Central Asia so it has influences from both the Silk Road/the Western part of China and the Soviet Union, which makes both their culture and their food a very unique combination. Their breakfast food is most similar to the Soviet Union countries (pierogies, cheese pancakes, blintzes) but most of their traditional lunch and dinner dishes (Uzbek pilaf (plov), dumplings (manti) and noodle dishes (norin or lagman)) come from Western China and are very meat-heavy, containing either lamb or beef. Originally when she began pursuing a career in the food industry, Kamola did research into manufacturing, thinking that she could create a manufacturing business around Uzbek food. But she quickly realized that it would be too hard to replicate her parents’ operation without experience in the U.S. Her parents had been working in the manufacturing industry for years, first mass manufacturing ice cream and then expanding into frozen foods when she was 14, the same time that Kamola began working for them. She had started learning English in high school and since her parents don’t speak English, she would help them schedule meetings with their partners abroad. She attended an Australian university in Uzbekistan and continued her English classes, taking a bigger role in the company and travelling with her parents to international expos and conferences to help translate. Although her schedule was extremely full with work and school, she says she didn’t mind it because she was always passionate about being in business. She didn’t know exactly what field she would pursue but always knew she would get into some area of business and be a business owner.

Since Kamola had been surrounded by food from an early age and knew manufacturing wasn’t a viable option, she began thinking about the restaurant/cafe business because it was a smaller part of the food industry and a (seemingly) easier operation to run. She started doing research into food trends in New York and found that vegetarian and vegan options were very popular. She thought there could be a way to make Uzbek food lighter and healthier with vegan and vegetarians options; an “every day meal” that would attract recurring customers rather than a heavy experience that they splurged on every once in a while. However, although she knew how to cook and had business experience, she didn’t have any experience in the restaurant industry, so she spent the next year learning. She wanted to do her research into the business and decrease her risks as much as possible so she started going into different restaurants in Uzbekistan and asking chefs for help. She worked with these chefs to deeply understand and learn their recipes and then she made them every day until she learned how to create every dish. Then she started working backwards seeing where she could substitute ingredients for lighter, healthier and/or veggie-friendly options. She spent six months in Uzbekistan and six months in New York learning and working on the menu before deciding if she could even open a restaurant. But her research paid off. She constructed a simple menu that included some main, authentic Uzbek dishes as well as the vegan and vegetarian options that she had created. Once that was complete, she made a business plan and started looking for restaurant spaces in the East Village since it’s a traditionally Ukrainian area that customers are drawn to. She ended up finding a small space with a kitchen on 1st Avenue and her restaurant opened in September 2018. It’s one of the first Uzbek restaurants in Manhattan.

Afandi Store

Since her business has only been open for about six months, Kamola says there’s still a lot to be done to get more customers into the restaurant. She admits that it’s been difficult to gain interest from customers because it’s something new but she tries to explain the cuisine to every single customer that comes in so that he/she understands the influences that make it unique. She’s incorporated a lot of the Uzbek culture into the store design (statue of Afandi, Uzbek paintings, cups and bowls) but also tries to show the creation of her modern Uzbek food by depicting the meshing of New York City and Uzbekistan with the image of two American women wearing Uzbek hats. She’s also very aware of the impact of social media on food businesses and is trying to do more on Instagram and Facebook so that their audience will get to know her business and the mission behind it. She’s been inviting influencers to come to the restaurant and try the food for free in exchange for a social media post and even created a “green wall” to make the restaurant more picturesque for social media. However, as difficult as it’s been for Kamola to get her business to stand out in a saturated market, she says that the most difficult part of being a woman-owned business is being able to balance your family and your business. It feels like there’s never enough time in the day for her to manage both aspects of her life and that gets really tough. Her son is her biggest motivation to make the business successful but even when she’s thinking about the business throughout the day, she’s always thinking about her son. Although she really enjoys her job, she has to work to support her family and it’s always challenging trying to figure out how to balance everything. It frustrates her as a business owner and mother that there’s not one clear solution but she hopes that over time she can find a routine that works for her.

Kamola’s immediate plans for Afandi Asian Grill include expanding their menu to incorporate more food from other Soviet Union countries and starting to offer brunch on the weekends. But long-term she plans to open another restaurant that’s smaller with only counter service and grab-n-go food. She’d like to open a small manufacturing facility in Brooklyn where all of the Uzbek food would be cooked and then transported to these small restaurants that would eventually expand throughout the city. However, this operation requires more financing so she plans to do more research into the logistics to see what would be feasible in New York. She’s started going to more networking events and meet-ups to make connections and learn from people who have been successful in the food industry. Understanding how other women have grown their businesses and garnering their advice is very important to her. Kamola relies heavily on her research and being a new business owner, it’s one of her two pieces of advice for female entrepreneurs looking to get into the food industry: do as much research as possible and then get as much experience as possible. She doesn’t regret her path into the restaurant business but looking back she wishes that she knew more about restaurants and how many things you have to handle as a business owner before jumping in. She says if she had realized, she definitely would’ve worked in a restaurant to get more experience first, even if she had to work for free. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what cuisine you’re cooking, real life experience in a kitchen is more important than anything else.


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0 comments on “Feelin Lucky? Try Our Bangers & Mash!”

Feelin Lucky? Try Our Bangers & Mash!

St. Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching and although you may not be finding any pots of gold at the end of a rainbow this weekend, you will definitely be finding some delicious home-cooked Irish fare! Bangers and mash (aka sausage and mashed potatoes) is a traditional Irish dish that’s a staple on any menu you’ll find to go along with your St. Patrick’s day festivities (and it’s a good way to soak up a few pints of Guinness!). It’s a delicious and filling meal that you can prep and serve in under an hour and almost all of the ingredients can be found in your kitchen.

We thought that bangers and mash would be the perfect recipe to (sham)rock your weekend celebrations. However, instead of the traditional bangers that are made of pork, lamb or beef, we tried to keep things a little healthier by using Bilinski’s Chicken Sausage, which are all-natural and antibiotic-free. Try out our recipe below and let us know what you think! We hope that it keeps your Irish eyes smiling through every bite 🙂

Bangers and Mash

Recipe serve 3-5

You’ll Need:

Mashed Potatoes

2 large potatoes

2-3 tablespoons salted butter

1/2 cup of 2% milk

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons fresh chopped scallion

Onion Gravy

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 & 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 & 1/4 cup water

1 cup canned beef broth

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper


Chicken Sausage

1 package of cooked chicken sausage (we used Spinach with Spring Greens)

olive oil

First start with your mashed potatoes! Peel and cut your potatoes into 2 inch chunks and boil on low heat until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes). Once tender, drain the potatoes and add to a large bowl. Add in butter, milk (preferably warmed), salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and fresh chopped scallions. Mash ingredients together until your potatoes are at your desired consistency and set aside.

Next make your gravy. In a medium-sized skillet add vegetable oil and butter before adding your onions. Cook over medium heat until onions are soft and slightly browned (approximately 15 minutes). Add in flour and cook for 1 minute. Next stir in water, broth, Worcestershire sauce and pepper and simmer over low heat. Whisk until gravy is slightly thickened (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and additional Worcestershire sauce if desired.

Finally, prep your chicken sausage! Since it’s already cooked, your chicken sausage only needs to be browned before serving. Simply add olive oil to a pan over medium heat and cook until brown. Once ready, serve over a bed of mashed potatoes and top with gravy! Pro tip: save some chopped scallions from your mashed potatoes to use as a garnish on top!

0 comments on “Liz Solomon, Founder and CEO of King David Tacos”

Liz Solomon, Founder and CEO of King David Tacos

This is Liz Solomon, the Founder and CEO of King David Tacos, a business that specializes in grab-n-go breakfast tacos that are “born and bred in Austin but made for NYC”. Like her tacos, Liz was born and raised in Austin, Texas but moved to New York to pursue a career in advertising. However, after working for 10 years in the same industry, she became disenchanted with her career path. She loved her work building brands but she knew from an early point that this wasn’t the industry she wanted to work in for the rest of her life. She knew that one day there would be an opportunity to make a shift in her career and kept the faith that she would know her next move when it presented itself. However, the crossroads she was looking for didn’t appear as she expected it to. It came as her dad’s illness was nearing it’s end. And unlike the typical entrepreneur story of starting a business to be your own boss or to be in charge of your own destiny, Liz realized that she didn’t want to have any regrets about her life. Her dad’s illness had hit her with the awareness that you never know what could happen in your life. It was a very acute feeling that made her recognize that she needed to make sure she did the things she had always wanted to, even if it meant taking a risk. Being a Texan, the lack of breakfast tacos was the first thing she noticed when she moved to New York and it was something she thought was glaringly missing from the food scene. And because her dad was the first one to push her to open a breakfast taco stand (Times Square was his location of choice), she decided to try and fill the gap that she saw. It wasn’t the opportunity she had been envisioning for herself but she had been waiting for the right moment for so long that she knew she had to seize it. So she took stock of her life- she was financially secure, had years of business knowledge, had the product and the passion for it and had a stable partner (her husband) who could support her, both emotionally and financially, in this venture. So she started a breakfast taco company as an homage to her dad, David, and to make an impact on other people’s lives by bringing them the joy of breakfast tacos.

Liz says that she’s not special in that she noticed the breakfast taco hole in the New York food industry, she’s just special in that she was crazy enough to act on it. And once she was committed to the idea, she jump into the food industry “head first”. She formed the LLC in December 2015 and by January 2016 she had taken her food safety course, was learning the rules and regulations of food production in New York and had started searching for a tortilleria and a kitchen for production. By April 2016 she was finishing up her recipe testing and had found a shared kitchen space to rent. In May she put everything on hold to prepare for her wedding in June, got married, came back from a “mini”-moon and did her first two trial runs of production at her husband’s company and at her sister’s company. During the trial runs she realized that she was going to need employees so she started hiring at the end of June/beginning of July and officially launched in July with two tacos and one salsa. She started doing catering orders with contacts she had made through networking and business was slowly coming in through word of mouth. But things really took off thanks to an article in New York Magazine, written by Sierra Tishgart, which profiled Liz and King David Tacos because they were the only breakfast taco company in the city. The article got them off the ground but they were still only offering catering and requiring that customers order a minimum of 100 tacos because Liz was bootstrapping the business herself and that was the only way they were able to break even. However, she realized that they couldn’t expect every client to do catering and 100 tacos wasn’t a sustainable way to make people order. Their catering base was growing but they needed guaranteed business that catering didn’t provide and a way to get tacos directly to the client.

After doing catering for a year, King David Tacos opened their first breakfast taco cart in Prospect Park in September 2017, which was quickly followed by their second breakfast taco cart on Wall Street in November 2017. The mobile carts gave them a retail presence and the stability they needed for consistent production, which allowed Liz to maintain a full-time staff and get enough revenue to pay rent and lock down their own space in the shared kitchen they were working out of. It also allowed them to establish better processes (the consistent business gave them the time and money to improve their systems) and introduce new products, expanding to four tacos and two salsas. However, the food carts also introduced Liz to a whole other world of rules and regulations that are tied to mobile vending. They had to respond to RFPs (request for proposals) for the locations where their carts are parked and win them in order to get a restricted permit with the New York City Department of Parks. The restricted permit guarantees that no one else can be in their spot but it’s a contract for only a certain number of years. So once the contract is up, they’ll have to win the RFP again. Luckily, both carts do very well, with 75-80% of the business being returning customers, which is exactly what Liz designed the product for. She felt that other breakfast taco companies failed in the past because they tried to recreate Austin or didn’t tailor the product to New York’s needs. She recognized that in order to bring breakfast tacos to New York, they needed to be a convenient item that people could “grab-n-go” on their way to work. She knew that she wasn’t going to convince New Yorkers to make the choice to buy a breakfast taco if they had to go out of their way to get them. Therefore, the strategy behind every decision they’ve made as a brand is to put themselves in people’s routines. The mobile carts allow them to literally get in the customer’s walkway and makes the purchasing process more efficient for the consumer.

Liz also realized that tailoring her breakfast tacos to New York meant understanding how New Yorkers eat. She’s proud of her Texas roots but knew that trying to make Texas and it’s eating habits the focal point of the business wouldn’t work in New York. New Yorkers love to indulge but overall are more health conscious, so she needed to create something that had good, healthy ingredients but was filling enough that you could eat one or two and feel satisfied. So she created the prototype for the tacos to be 1 egg, 1 piece of bacon, 4-5 cubes of potatoes and a little bit of cheese. This breakdown changes based on the type of taco and it’s ingredients but keeps the same main ratio of portioning. She felt like this was a meal that was easy to get on your commute, easy to take into the office and was solid enough to get you through the morning. Unlike a bagel or pastry that’s all sugar and carbs and makes you feel guilty after you eat it, her tacos are a good middle ground of healthy and indulgent, where you don’t feel like you’re limiting yourself to the “typical healthy food” of yogurt or a smoothie. When thinking about her breakfast tacos, Liz wants customers to say that they’re the best breakfast tacos outside of Texas but also wants them to recognize that this is something they can eat every day. She believes that fad diets are fading out and that more and more people are realizing that whole foods are good for you and moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle. She wants people to see her breakfast tacos as a part of that lifestyle because not only are they a delicious, wholesome breakfast, they’re a unique option that people can easily incorporate into their breakfast routine.

For Liz the most rewarding part of the business is the personal connection she forms with customers, since her business began from such a personal mission. The best part is interacting with customers at their mobile carts, seeing them buy the tacos, eat them and tell her how much they love them. She loves being able to hear their feedback and figure out ways that they can improve what they’re doing. She recently was at their Prospect Park cart and a couple that comes with their kids every weekend told her that their kids go home and play “taco cart”, which really stuck with her. The impact that her business is able to have on other people’s lives is really what she does it for and it makes her feel like she’s been woven into their life in a small way. But as the business owner, the more successful they are and the deeper she gets into the business, the less and less she’s at the carts, which is tough for her. She likes to be hands-on with everything so she channels that into her employees, who are interacting with customers on a daily basis. She tries to instill empathy for employees in the other areas of the business into all of her team members to make them understand how every part of the operation effects each other and to create a system of mutual respect across all levels.

As most business owners in the food industry know, working in food is a very thank-less job, so it’s hard to find people who are committed to the business. When they don’t show up for you or for your other employees, it’s hard not to take it personally in a small business. But as a female business owner, Liz says she’s learned to toughen up over the last few years and get more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. In the past she might’ve shied away from confrontation but she’s learned that it’s okay to be more assertive when the situation calls for it. She believes that as a female entrepreneur you have to set firm standards of how the business is going to be run and use your power when necessary to make sure that these standards are being upheld, or else people will take advantage of you. Although that’s not how she’s been “trained” to handle things as a woman, she’s grown used to this space outside her comfort zone and likes challenging herself to get used to operating there. She’s very sensitive to the female inequality in the food industry and advocates that other female founders work to find their voice, even when it’s uncomfortable. For Liz, it’s constantly about finding the right balance of care and assertiveness but making sure your underlying tone is one of respect. Without respect, for your employees, your customers, your partners and for yourself, your business will never create the impact that you hope to achieve.



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