Photos courtesy of Hu Kitchen
SINCE LAUNCHING last year, students, gym junkies and healthy-leaning
fashionistas have flocked to Hu Kitchen—the latest health-conscious eatery to
sprout up in downtown Manhattan. Helmed by Jordan Brown and his sister Jessica,
the café-cum-juice bar’s motto “Food for Humans” encompasses their
Paleo-leaning philosophy. “Our basic premise is to keep inflammation and
blood sugar swings at bay through very low use of grains and high quality unprocessed
ingredients,” explained Brown who previously worked in real estate. “We believe
you can remove toxins from your body through eating certain foods.”
Brown wasn’t always the Paleo proponent as he is today. Years earlier, Brown
found himself hungover at an airport after a debaucherous weekend in Las Vegas
where he found Dr. Mark Hyman’s Ultra Mind
Solution. “There were concepts I’ve never heard of before like gluten,
insulin, systemic inflammation of the body,” recalled Brown. “The premise was
instead of popping pills, let’s get to the root cause of the
problem. It was more of a holistic way of healing people and I thought wow this
is really cool.” Cut to five years later and the launch of a two-story café hawking
fresh vegetable juices, chia seed puddings, organic roasted meats and array of
prepared foods from a miso kale salad to baked, almond flour-crusted chicken tenders,
just a stone’s throw from NYU and the Union Square greenmarket. Recently, Whole
Foods picked up their in-house chocolate bar line and they’ll be selling
prepared items like dehydrated kale chips online. Here, Bonberi caught up with
Brown to find out the low-down on the Paleo craze, what he eats and why we all
should be cutting out sugar from our diets, like, yesterday.
What is the philosophy behind Hu Kitchen?
Its a Paleo, primal paradigm. The overarching policy is that we want to be as old school with our ingredients as possible. Our food has no antibiotics or hormones.There is so much crap out there, I wanted to create something that embodies a primal, human way of eating where you don’t wreak havoc on your insides. I like to say aging gracefully is reliant on neither a pill or doctor, just using food as medicine.
What inspired you to go full Paleo?
I’ve tried almost every diet under the sun from vegetarianism, veganism, you name it. I would isolate variables for two week intervals, cut them out and bring them back in. Then I came across this book called Primal Blueprint and nothing worked more fast or more furiously than that in terms of energy levels, results from working out in half the time, literally everything.
Were there any specific improvements in you health?
I had an annoying skin condition on the left side of my chest for five or six years that I could never get rid of. I would go to one doctor after another and they would tell me to take pills and nothing would ever work. I cut gluten for a week and it was gone. So I became enamored with the power of food to heal. My interest was born out of vanity, I guess.
Gluten-free has become such a buzzword, but is it all good?
I’ve become a bloodhound for all of the bullshit in the food industry and how they put labels on everything to prey on the mass’s lack of knowledge about nutrition. They throw the word gluten-free on an iced tea and they think it’s better for you.
How do you feel about calorie-restricting diets?
My sister was the typical NYC girl who would do 7 hours of cardio a day and then have a whole wheat bagel with low fat cream cheese for dinner and she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t getting the results she wanted. She was like, “It’s all about 100-calorie packs!” I gave her Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. That was her 180 moment. He really changed her way of eating. No more counting calories or demonizing fat. It was just really about high quality, actually satisfying yourself food.
You make your own almond milk. What is wrong with commercial ones on the market?
Most commercial versions have a slew of stabilizers that we think are irritants. One of the ingredients called Carrageenan makes me break out. It’s natural, but the way they extract it, it’s something that could never have been done 500 years ago. We have something I call our great great great grandma test that we put all the food to here. If she couldn’t make it, we don’t. We don’t use soy lecithin or xantham gum. They are the new players on the scene now to replicate gluten and they rub us the wrong way because number one, we don’t think they’re good for you and number two, they are made in suspect ways and we don’t allow those in the door.
Is your store fully organic?
We are heavily organic. We like to be smart about it. That Dirty Dozen list, we’re organic across the board on that. Our coffee as well. Coffee is one of the dirtiest pesticide-riddled products on the planet. Most people don’t think about it.
Is fat your friend or foe?
Oils are a huge thing. A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of restaurants use cheap GMO canola oil, which is not good for you and makes you feel like crap. We use coconut oil, olive oil and a little bit of grass-fed butter.
Your bread is phenomenal. How do you make it?
We have no gluten throughout the entire store. It’s 90% vegetables, seeds and flax. That was really hard to get. We had to go through 100 tries.
How do you insure the best quality of meat?
Red meat has been demonized for the wrong reasons because of what the animals are fed. There are antibiotics and hormones that make their way to the plate, which we don’t allow here. The whole place is non-GMO and that includes the feed the animals are eating. For example, we had to change our bacon to a beef bacon because we could not guarantee that pigs are not being fed GMO feed. All of our dairy is also 100% grass fed and organic.
We noticed you sell tuna. Where do you source it from?
We only have wild fish, there is no farmed fish whatsoever. It’s a lot more expensive and we make very little to no money on it but that’s ok. We’re not going to stray from our ideals.
What about sweeteners? No go in the Paleo world?
The best sweetener is no sweetener but people like sweet stuff. We don’t allow any cane sugar for a slew reasons, one of which is its high blood sugar spike. We sweeten only with unfiltered raw honey, unfiltered maple syrup and an unrefined organic coconut sugar, which is a low fructose sweetener. We’re moving towards sweetening only with actually full foods like apple sauce, sweet potato and things of that nature.
Do you prefer juices or smoothies?
We like juicing but we also think that there is something to be said about keeping the fiber. We have smoothies but we also do chia waters and fruit waters where we’re just pureeing so you actually have the fiber.
What’s your favorite dish?
I love the mash bar, which is based on how I used to snack. When I would come home from work and wanted something to eat after the gym. I would never do frozen yoghurt because I don’t do dairy. I would got to Whole Foods, make almond butter in that machine they had, get some fruit and literally mash it up and that would be my snack. It was a joke in my family, “What concoction will Jordan make today?” It’s our version of a non-dairy sundae bar. We offer two types of chia puddings, nut butters, Paleo granolas, cashew and coconut creams. I personally love the vanilla chia pudding, cashew cream, banana and a Paleo granola.
What is your best-seller?
The rotisserie chicken. It’s organic. Most rotisserie chicken use refined sugars. We just use a little bit of sea salt and coconut sugar brine. It’s really good.
Have you noticed a big difference from eating this way?
I have two chefs here both of which lost 30 pounds just by changing the way they eat.