By Vanessa Packer
Photography Justin Namon / ra-haus
MIAMI HAS ALWAYS BEEN KNOWN for its bronzed and built denizens, bikinied from the beach to the gym–the ’90s picture of health. But in recent years a true health community has sprouted up, and leading the pack is jugofresh. Matt Sherman and Darren Laszlo (aka Chef Paco) are “redefining what healthy looks like” in Miami with their organic cold-pressed juice and raw food cafe. “I think the opportunity to create what healthy looks like here was incredible because it had been such a physical appearance-based attitude toward health,” Matt explained. With their flagship store in the up-and-coming Sunset Harbor neighborhood and outposts in Alchemist, Body and Soul Fitness and a new store opening in Wynwood just in time for Art Basel, they have cornered the Miami market on where to get your green juice. “I had the opportunity to create the market, rather then be the second or third one in” said Matt over almond milk lattes at nearby Panther Coffee. Since they opened their doors almost three years ago, over 20 other cold pressed juice companies in Miami have opened, but still jugofresh remains at the top of the heap as the go-to for visitors and locals alike. Here, bonberi sat down with the jugofresh team as they continue to “make it nice, or make it twice.”
How did you get into juicing and maintaing a healthy lifestyle?
MATT: My background was in sports and exercise, but as an exercise psychology consultant you can’t really go beyond the exercise routine. So I started searching for other things, and that’s when I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I spent some time at a place in Hawaii that was treating cancer patients with cold pressed juice and I had never had cold pressed juice. I had been eating raw up until that point for about seven months through my own personal course and at The Hawaiin Natropathic Institute of Health and Wellness part of my duties was to help prepare the food and juice. I started drinking the juice myself and I instantly felt my blood flow improve. I was amazed at the difference it was making and I thought, “Why wait to have cancer.” So I bought a Norwalk juice press for my own home use with no intention of making a business out of it at all. Then one of my individual clients from IIN saw it on my counter top and asked about it. She was going to order a juice cleanse and have it delivered and was like, “If you could make it for me I would rather get it from you.” I had never done a juice cleanse and I was like, “Fuck it I’ll do it with you.” We went through an amazing experience and from then on my phone just started ringing. It was a complete mess the way I was doing it. I did it at my house, kale on the ceiling. I would lower all the curtains in my house and set the AC to 50F just to keep the vegetables cold. I didn’t know how to do it restaurant style. I called Paco and asked him to fly down. I gave him one of our signature drinks, the ashram, one of our most popular.
PACO: When he made it for me and it was like an epiphany.
So had you ever had cold pressed juice before?
PACO: I had had it before, but I poured out half of it. I didn’t like it at all.
What did you think when you had that juice?
PACO: There is something here. I thought he was crazy at first, and then he wanted to open a juice bar. I was helping a friend of mine open a restaurant in New York and I was in art school too at SVA. I was in a comfy routine that was hard to break out of to move somewhere else.
So he asked you to move here?
PACO: Yea. I came down and he gave me the drink and I remember it was the night before I left. He was like, “Dude you have to have this drink.” Then that morning he made me the acai bowl. When I got back to New York I was just like, “Alright I’ll do it.”
How have you applied the skills and training of working in a restaurant to figuring out how to make raw food and raw juices, is it very different?
PACO: It’s interesting because now the ingredients speak for themselves more then anything else. Freshness is most important. You can’t mask things by cooking them down, adding butter and cream and a ton of salt. You can tell when they are really bad vegetables. You can’t hide freshness, you can taste it, see it, feel it. There is no way to hide it. It’s the integrity you need to have, and the respect for the product.
What made you focus on Miami as a place to do jugofresh?
MATT: I came down here to get my masters in sports psychology. When I was growing up, I was like a rebel without a cause, and Miami felt that way to me. It felt rhythmic with how I experience my life. It felt like a 21 or 22 year old kid that had some ideas and inspiration but didn’t know how to accomplish anything, and that wide openness of Miami where you could really be a part of something, part of the community that was growing. That was really something I didn’t want to pass up. It’s incredible to be a part of something so young and so undeveloped. New Yorkers came down here and tried to make it their own little mecca by opening up Nobu and Katsuya, but there wasn’t much of a unique authentic flavor. To take something like jugofresh and completely change the design of what a normal juice bar looks like was such an exciting opportunity. One of the biggest hiccups with people changing their health is that it feel like an arduous task. Our philosophy is opposite. Mother nature takes over and you just get out of the way. To be able to create not only a personal relationship with clients but create that actual space for them to come to on a daily basis. We try to do everything to the best of our ability, and the opportunity in Miami was too good to pass up. The people here were hungry for it. To be able to change that dynamic is really exciting and I don’t think that opportunity exists in New York or LA.
What was the goal of jugofresh when first starting out?
MATT: When we started this, Paco and I sat down to ask what our intentions were. It was to change the way people viewed health foods, and to make it chef worthy and make healthy eating fun. We push to grow and it’s tough in the restaurant business. To create a career minded team of people looking to make a great experience. I started with one employee and we’ll be over 100 by middle of next year.
How has the health and juicing scene changed in the last 3 or 4 years since you opened?
MATT: When I started doing cleanses, there was one other cold pressed juice guy, now there must be 20 in Miami. There are a lot of great companies sprouting up from people that worked for us, or that were inspired by coming into our shop. There’s a lot of people that want to be a part of that movement. From a customer standpoint we’ve been able to evolve from when people first came in. Our Vamos Green, which is our mid-range green now, was the only green we had in the cleanse back then. We introduced the El Green Go, our gateway green, and that’s how we get people into the lifestyle. One of the coolest things has been to watch people progress from drinking the El Green Go, to drinking the next level green. Some of those people would only drink our almond milk smoothie which has dates and agave, now are drinking the intense green juices. It’s interesting to watch the individual customer progress through that.
You were eating a mainstream diet in the beginning, how has your diet personally evolved?
PACO: In the past three months I’ve gotten off gluten and I feel amazing. I felt so heavy before, like struggling to get out of bed. Now I’m drinking more juice and it feels good.
What does a typical day look like or you?
PACO: Green oatmeal everyday. In a nutribullet, I add oatmeal, chorella powder and spirulina. It’s super thick and so good.
MATT: It depends. I usually have a green smoothie, something with oatmeal or a green juice. I’ve been doing a lot of celery, apple, a ton of greens, chorella, maca, a ton of cayenne and lemon juice and then stevia. My morning is hot water with lemon and cayenne and now I’ve been tripping on our bowls. Lately, the chocolate bowl. It’s awesome. We’ve been really trying to make a ton of different bowl experiences, and we’ve seen it get more and more popular. It’s definitely one of our most popular Instagrammed images by far. Paco is so talented at bringing juice to a culinary level. We just introduced a new juice that’s celery, coconut water, orange, dandelion, cucumber, tarragon and yuzu. From a food standpoint, it’s really pushing the palate and it’s suer original. When you open it up you get this amazing herb scent in your face and you drink it and it goes great with some of the spicier stuff, like the kelp noodles for example. We can push the pairings now too. we just did an 18 course dinner the other night where we paired all raw food with a juice.
Where do you get your inspiration for the menu?
PACO: Matt and I shoot each other texts at random times about different things, and I write stuff down constantly. It comes from everywhere. Price lists, hearing people talk about food, and it has really evolved. It’s cool.
MATT: It speaks to our whole process. People always ask where we get the names from and it really comes at random times. We’ll walk down the street and overhear a couple talking and think, “Oh that would be a dope name for a juice.” Then it’s on the menu. We are lucky we have really creative fun friends so we get a lot from there. It’s such a collaboration to get to the final product.
It has a sense of community when you go into the store, did that happen organically?MATT: We always had a strong intention to connect with people. When you read our menu there aren’t a lot of things that push you in a direction. It’s intentional to spur a conversation with one of the people that is working. It’s not just immunity, I want that juice. We want them to engage in conversation. How they are feeling, what they want to have, the flavor they want to have, the energy they want to have. To have those conversations you develop a relationship, that’s what it’s all about. We love working together and doing long nights of recipe testing. I think this sense of community comes from our desire to connect with people. We are friendly people so it’s natural.
How do you decide on partnerships, you have one in Alchemist and one in Soul Fitness?
MATT: It’s really relationship based. Roma and Erika from Alchemist were so cool. I think Roma came into the shop in the beginning. I was always out front and Roma was sitting there staring at me, and finally enough people moved out of the way and he looks at me and goes, “Can I talk to you” and he starts going into this whole idea he has. He’s passionate and revved up about it. I couldn’t help but want to talk to him more, so we started meeting quite a bit with he and Erika, and the relationship developed. Same thing with the gym. We’ve had a ton of offers to go into gyms and we’ve said no over and over again. Alex and Carlo who own Body and Soul Fitness in South Miami were persisitent, coming into our store and sharing their vision for their gym and we felt comfortable, so it was easier to take that step and be a part of what they are doing. I think Roma and Erika are amazing and the store is amazing. Also having our juice in a refrigerator designed by Zaha Hadid is insane. It all came together.
You are opening a new store right?
MATT: The Wynwood location is opening in time for Art Basel. How we design our stores is huge for us, and every store has it’s own personality.
Where do you get inspiration for you design from?
MATT: It happens organically. The chandelier when you walk into our first location is made by a local artist names Keith McClarity, a 19 year old kid. He came over to the house, hung out with Paco and I for a few hours, kicking around ideas, he was super cool so we asked him to make a chandelier. He made it in Boston and shipped it down to us and now its’s like the heart an soul of our store.
Do you have any favorite artists or shows you are looking forward to during Art Basel?
MATT: Art Basel for locals is totally different. When you work it, you’re kind of detached. We don’t sleep between the truck and pop-up shop and Yogart event. We are opening up the Wynwood shop this year so that’s our Art Basel. We are doing Yogart again this year. We try to be an oasis for the debauchery that happens. Last year in our pop-up shop, we just weren’t used to the type of people that came in. We’re used to kids coming in after a night out, but last Art Basel, I’ve never experienced anything like it. You had people coming in, one eye pointed up, one pointed down, hadn’t slept in days, so burnt out from partying and reeking of booze. We get them fixed up with green juice, E3 live, coconut water and a couple of shots and hopefully they get their shit together.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
MATT: I don’t drink a lot, but it’s nice to gather with friends and have a couple of glasses of wine.
PACO: I don’t drink either anymore but a frosty cold beer is really nice.
What’s on the horizon for jugofresh?
MATT: Our goals are to keep on pushing. We try to push each other and make the best work environment, the best product and just grow. We hope to expand nationally and internationally in order to push our dreams. But for right now, we are really enjoying Miami.