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Eateries That Are Raising the Health Bar

Monday, May 26, 2008 by: Jennifer McKinley
Tags: restaurants, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) No matter what city or state you live in, there seems to be a shortage of "safe" eateries. The fresh vegetables really aren't that fresh because they have been on a truck for countless hours. There is probably Monosodium Glutamate and High Fructose Corn Syrup in everything they serve. Untold scores of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides are undoubtedly infiltrating your favorite dish. And then there is the ever popular fast food eateries.

Take heart. There are some that are raising the bar. Some are small and family owned and others are nationwide chains that do not believe in advertising and choose to only make themselves known by word of mouth.

I know that some may expect this article to be about small "mom and pop" locations that are tucked away under a willow with their farm down the road sort of tale.

Not this time.

In this particular article, I would like to highlight a nationwide chain that, in this journalist's opinion, is too far and few in between: Jason's Deli.

Let me begin by saying that I am an "eat-out-aholic". I can cook very well. But with a business to run, home-school to teach, five children under the age of 9, a house to manage, and articles to write, much of the time, (even though I know better) I can't squeeze it in.

I saw a commercial for Jason's Deli on my local television station many months ago. Although I had seen their signs while driving, I didn't know who or what they were. But on the commercial: "Organic produce", the man's voice-over touted. My attention turned from my lap top toward my television. "Real food", he said. I kept listening and watching. As I watched, I saw a cornucopia of vegetables, fruits, pastas, bread, and sandwiches flash by me in brilliant color on the screen.

"Organic?" I thought to myself. "Here? In Memphis?"

A few weeks later, I happened toward the part of town where one of the Jason's Deli's takes up residence: Memphis, Tennessee. The sheer joy that came over my face when I walked in must have been something to behold. I saw the words "Organic" on the salad bar. I saw "organic" on the condiments and even the packages of crackers on the salad bar. "Real Food," the banner said in bold letters. Just like the voice on the commercial said. Truth in advertising? No way! Stamped on one side of the cards on the tables were "no partially hydrogenated oil". When turning the card around, it said that Jason's Deli had done away with all MSG. Not only that, but next on their list was wiping out all HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). Can anyone say "Now THIS is Shock and Awe."

I thought I had died and gone to Take-Out Heaven.

It took me a moment to realize that I could actually eat here and that what I was going to choose -- whatever I was going to choose -- would be something that I could feel good about eating without worrying so much about that "take out" food that is usually laden with everything you can think of that is unhealthy for you plus some. It actually felt good to eat there!

"The farther away from the food chain you get, the less good the food will be," says Pat Herring, director of Research and Development, for Jason's Deli. "When you're cooking at home, you don't have all this stuff... you have a recipe that says 'pinch of salt,' 'some garlic."

Jason's Is Definitely Different

Founded in 1976 in Beaumont, Texas, its owners Joe Tortorice, Pat Broussard, Rusty Coco, and Pete Verde have strived to keep food "real" by getting all of the extra things out and letting their customers really taste the food they are eating.

According to Steven Siler who recently interviewed Mr. Coco for edible Lowcountry and edible Atlanta, Rusty is the driving force behind the organic and healthy menu choices at Jason's. It was also revealed that Rusty has tested every single menu item himself and has no qualms with getting menu ideas from employees. The Big Cheese sandwich was introduced from an employee in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2000, they made the decision to eliminate partially hydrogenated oil from their foods. "The more we looked at food products, the more partially hydrogenated oils we found. It's everywhere!" says Rusty. What's their goal? To not only change the food they were serving but to put pressure on suppliers to change their ways. "We told our suppliers to rework their products or we would find others who would," Rusty recalls. "We refused to take no for an answer."

"We are extremely proud of what we have done," said co-owner Joe Tortorice. "No one else in the restaurant industry has successfully accomplished the removal of partially hydrogenated oils on this scale. We are doing the right thing for our customers' health by leading the way on this."

Their most recent feat? After successfully removing partially hydrogenated oil and MSG, next comes removing High Fructose Corn Syrup from many menu items. This has been no small task, but the team at Jason's seems up to the challenge.

How does the Jason's team feel about new studies attempting to prove the value or inert qualities of different chemicals or artificial flavorings? "We aren't concerned with what those studies find or don't find. Why go through all that trouble studying and analyzing these chemicals, when you could just use real food? The same food that nature has been perfecting for centuries."

The local Jason's Deli's in the Memphis area are franchised locations. The owners were not available during the time of this writing, but in speaking with a local manager, Heather Michelle, it is obvious that even the employees take great pride in working at Jason's.

All organic produce is purchased from a local organic produce company in Paris, TN for the Memphis locations according to Ms. Michelle. The Memphis team shares in the values of Jason's Corporate: Good food, organic options, health of themselves and their customers. Simple.

More is in store for Jason's Deli. With Jason's popping up in more than 120 locations, you can only hope that one is coming to a location near you, if it's not there already!


As an aside: A little bird told me that the owners of the Memphis locations are looking to build in Southaven, Mississippi. Can I second that emotion with a big "Do it, Please! You would make my year."

Jason's has a strict policy of "word of mouth" business. You may not see a commercial. Check your phone book. Google it. See if you have a location near you.

It may just be the best lunch you've had in a long time. At the very least, it won't McKill you.



About the author

Jennifer McKinley is a wife, mother of five, home-schooler, and business owner. She has spent many years researching issues dealing with holistic and natural medicine and how different chemicals in our homes, foods, medications, and environments affect our health and quality of life. Her goal is to promote public awareness and knowledge regarding these issues. She has recently launched a hand made personal care product company promoting natural and chemical free skin care. Please visit www.urbannaturals.net

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