Imagine a world where healthy, balanced, tasty meals arrive at your office. After lunch, you feel nourished and energized, and you shine right through until the end-of-day. That's what the innovated catering company, Ox Verte, provides to its clients through the use of plant-based foods and as well as sustainably sourced whole foods. In this article, we interview Jessie Gould, Founder of the creative health food startup, to discuss the business of food and the newest trends for modern eaters. Looking to get more plant-based foods into your diet? Ox Verte also reveals their clever food prep processes so that you always have healthy food on hand.
Jessie, your company, Ox Verte, is on a mission to provide nourishing food that is health-conscious and largely plant-based. How did you come to work in food, and what influenced your decision to include a lot of plant-based food on your menu?
I’ve always been health conscious personally and very aware of the health challenges we face as a country. I spent the first seven years of my professional life in finance, most recently at an investment firm, which acquired NY-based cold-pressed juice chain Organic Avenue. I joined Organic Avenue in the role of VP of Operations and then took a position as VP of Brand & Marketing.
During my time at OA, I gained a further appreciation for two needs—first, whole food, plant-based diets and second, change in the food industry. I left Organic Avenue in August 2015 and started Ox Verte to address these two needs.
What do you think is so exciting to others about your menu?
I think the beauty of our menu is the simplicity and personalization. We develop our menu or “Ox Carte" around the seasons and keep each item very simple and clean. No heavy sauces or seasoning, because we want the natural flavors to stand for themselves and the nutritional value to remain in full force.
Although our menu is simple, we allow for lots of customization as everything in the season’s CARTE comes with each order. This allows each person to build their own bowl and assures there is something for everyone. Did you know there are over 1000 combinations possible each season just based on our one simple menu? I think that’s a pretty cool stat …
A favorite customer says we are "like if the healthy side of Chop't and the hearty yummy cravings of Chipotle had a baby!"
Do you feel the trends in food shifting toward more plant-based and sustainable eating?
Absolutely, although we still need more change more quickly. The most positive trend I see is New Yorkers are starting to ask questions about how their food is made and where it comes from.
We try and encourage questions by establishing personal relationships with our customers and keeping our sourcing information as transparent as possible.
On the plant-based side, I think we all have more work to do. For health and environmental reasons, meat should be a side ingredient rather than the centerpiece of most meals. You may have noticed that we always put meat after the veggies and grains section in our setup to encourage a “veggie centric” approach to eating. Unfortunately, a lot of people still think a meal is not a meal without a heavy portion of meat.
What are some ways our readers can incorporate more plant-based food into their diet? Do you have any food prep tips that can help to save time?
Our chief culinary nutritionist, Abbie Gellman, suggests spending 1-2 hours and set yourself up for the week by doing things such as:
- Make a pot of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc.) and use all week by adding to salads, soups, stews, and side dishes
- Cut up whatever veggies you like raw and have them ready go for snacks and salads
- Roast whatever veggies you like and have them ready to incorporate into salads or side dishes
- Make half your plate veggies
Can you talk briefly about how you went about starting up a new food business for modern eaters?
Sure, I had two guiding principles when it came to starting Ox. First, everything will take as long as you give it. In other words, you can plan your business model for 6 weeks, 6 months, or even 6 years and your first move out the gate probably won't differ that much. In other words, just get started and start learning. Second, food is all about execution, not ideas. It's a complicated business. Focus on the how more than the what. Keep it as simple as humanly possible.
You use the ox in your name and logo as nod to another time, when the ox was used to cart wholesome grains and I'd assume in the harvesting and transportation of other plant-based foods. The ox is a big strong animal that is also a plant-based eater! Can you talk more about your branding and your role in the farm-to-table movement?
When we started Ox Verte, we were determined to create a strong mission-oriented identity for ourselves, just like fast-casual restaurants Sweetgreens and others. Yet, one thing that is very different about catering is that we don’t have an in-store experience because we don’t have stores. Instead, we have to create the customer experience at people’s offices which means our branding has to be strong and our mission has to be clear. We try and achieve this through the presentation of our food and our communication with customers. I think we are off to a great start, but there is lots more to do.
What's next for Ox Verte? Where can we go to keep track of all that you are up to?
2016 is all about focusing and taking our lunch business to the next level. Our customers are great and loyal - now we are just eager to welcome more companies to the Ox family.