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Freshark Enters Healthy Food Franchise Fray

Freshark Quinoa Burger, as seen in VegetarianGazette.com 

A modest storefront on midtown Manhattan’s East Side (1026 Second Ave.) may well be the flagship of a new healthy eating franchise empire. It’s called Freshark, and it offers a quantum menu. All offerings are and are not vegetarian.

In addition to fresh juices (e. g. Rejuvenator, Immune Booster, Friends With  Benefits), salads, breakfast fare, burgers and sweets, Freshark is a build-your-own platter, wrap-it or bowl-it kinda establishment. With the “Grilled Power Platter,” you pick your own protein (veggie burger or Portobello mushroom for the likes of us), dressing, and sides (eg. quinoa, baked sweet potato, grilled fajita vegetables). The wide assortment of wraps/bowls named for theoretical region of origin (e.g. Hawaiian, West Coast, spicy Thai, Mexicali) can accommodate Portobello mushroom or quinoa veggie burger.

The Freshark seeds were planted about 10 years ago when founder/CEO Peter Kambitsis launched the Ripe Juice Bar & Grill in Forest Hills, New York. He had been working in the pharmaceutical industry and he had a degree in international business. Why did he tempt the fates by launching a restaurant? He explained that he’s always had a passion for the restaurant business  (“even when I was little kid”). Add healthy food to his list of passions.

Kambitsis recalled that just about every time he called on a doctor's office, he overheard the doctor tellng the patient, "diet, diet, diet."

"I eat healthy myself," said Kambitsis. "My partners and I knew there were people like us who wanted to find healthier alternatives."

Voila! The Ripe Juice Bar & Grill.

 “A lot of people liked the food,” said Kambitsis,  “and we knew we were onto something.”

Kambitsis and company added a couple of restaurants, while  refining the menu and the operation.

“We rethought the menu,"  said Kambitsis,  “got state-of-the-art equipment; hired the best employees we could find. That’s our secret, the employees. That’s the only secret ingredient we have on our menu.

“We learned from our first menu,” Kambitsis continued, “that our customers want to construct their menu instead of deconstructing  their menu.

“In our first location we had about 30 or 40 wraps and we force-fed the protein in there. They want to order a West Coast wrap? West Coast comes with chicken. In our new concept, they get a choice of the protein they like. This way, we speed up the kitchen and they get what they want without feeling uncomfortable.”

The plan was to create a franchise  opportunity.

“We hope to take it nationally and global one day,” said Kambitsis. “We hope to be the pioneers in every neighborhood with healthy food.”

That hope meant more work had to be done on the menu. A sustained frenzy of tinkering, testing and tasting ensued. The results were brought to a focus panel of customers, dietitians and nutritionists. With their input, more tweaks were applied. The right kitchen equipment helped.

“We use ovens that shoot steam and cook at the same time,” said Kambistis, “therefore preserving all your nutrients in your food and how it’s meant to be eaten. Even our grills are angled so that the slightest bit of grease comes off. Our ingredients are transparent. We state everything we have on the menu.”

Freshark was officially born in September, 2014.  It took two years to reach the Manhattan location. At the time of this writing eight Fresharks are in development in the New York Metropolitan area.

 Which leads us to the biggest question of all. What's the story behind the name "Freshark?  

"We are a community bar and grill," said Kambistis. "We wanted our name to represent us and what we do, and our customers.

"The word 'Freshark' is derived from two words, The word ‘fresh.’ Everything we do, we make to order.  That’s our product. Everything we do is fresh. The other word is ‘shark.’ The shark is very smart. It’s a very fussy eater; and it’s always looking for something to eat. It cannot stand still.

"We serve fresh food to sharks." 

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