Late one recent Sunday night, three vans set out from an industrial kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, carrying four packaged kosher meals in insulated bags. By early morning, the meals were delivered to homes in nearby Brooklyn, Boston and Washington.
The meals, produced by the Kosher Fresh Diet firm (kosherfreshdiet.com), marked the expansion of its home-delivered products to the Northeast and a growth of the kosher-meals-at-your-doorstep trend.
Kosher Fresh Diet, the creation of Zalmi Duchman and Yosef Schwartz, both in their early 30s, offers meals (under the kashrut supervision of the Orthodox Union) that arrive daily at customers’ homes. Three meals a day, plus two snacks; more arrive on Fridays and before major Jewish holidays.
The meals, which come in various calorie ranges for the weight conscious, appeal to people who find diets hard to maintain on their own, and to those too busy to prepare healthful for themselves on a regular basis, says Schwartz, a Los Angeles native who serves as the firm’s chief culinary officer. “Young professionals are our ideal clients.”
He and Duchman, who grew up in Miami Beach, were yeshiva high school roommates and are both longtime entrepreneurs. The two founded The Fresh Diet, which offers non-kosher cuisine, in southern Florida six years ago, developing a sophisticated software system to individualize meals to every customer’s preferences. Over the years their number of employees has grown from one to 250.
They expanded to several large cities in the United States and Canada, added a kosher line in the Miami area earlier this year and decided to provide kosher food here this year when their facilities in Williamsburg became empty following a move to Park Slope.
They had already thought about doing kosher in New York City, they say.
Spreading the word through Jewpon.com, Facebook and Twitter (“We’re big social media guys,” Duchman says), the pair opened Kosher Fresh Diet’s New York branch with four customers two weeks ago and already growing to nearly four dozen.
Their firm is the latest entry in the kosher field that literally caters to customers with too little time or ability to cook and bake for themselves. Similar businesses patterned after ZoneChefs are Long Island-based Kosher Diet Delivery and Brooklyn’s Kosher Chefs Diet.
“It’s a growing trend … meeting the demand for healthier kosher meals,” Duchman says.
Kosher Fresh Diet supplies meals for a minimum of 31 days; the service averages $34.99 a day, with discounts through Jewpon.com. “The weight-loss factor of it is tremendous,” Duchman says.
Schwartz, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Pasadena, Calif., makes meals that are 40 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein.
Duchman, the firm’s CEO, was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Florida Award finalist this year.
They introduced a Kosher Fresh Diet Express truck to lower Manhattan recently, and future plans include a Kosher Fresh Diet cookbook and an expansion of the kosher line to Toronto. The meals, they boast, “are never frozen, freeze-dried or vacuum-packed.”
“People don’t stay with this forever,” Duchman says — customers leave when their weight drops or schedules change.
Jonathan Paris, an attorney in the Boston area, became one of Kosher Fresh Diet’s initial customers two weeks ago. An e-mail notice alerted him to the firm’s expansion to the Northeast, and he was intrigued by the possibility of eating “a well-balanced” meal regularly. Kosher-observant, he rarely has the time to prepare three balanced meals for himself each day, he says. Often he eats tuna fish, a diet that “gets stale.”
Now, he says, he takes two of the delivered meals to the office when he leaves home each morning and puts the dinner in the refrigerator.
“The food is excellent — on the gourmet side of things,” Paris says. “A great variety.”
Will he extend his contract when the first month runs out? “Absolutely,” he says.