Green Gourmet Gallops Into Black Rock
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
FOR SEPT/OCT 2010 ISSUE OF FAIRFIELD COUNTY WOMAN MAGAZINE (below Mike Lauterborn’s profile)
Bridgeport, CT – “Food you can feel good about” is the tagline for GreenGourmetToGo, a new woman-owned business in the trendy heart of the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. It’s an apt summary for a unique shop that offers the local community inspired vegetarian, organic, locally sourced food for take-out.
Linda Soper-Kolton, a self-described “lifelong foodie”, married mother of two and Fairfield resident, is the proprietor and opened the business here back in March 2010. She was previously employed by Save the Children, handling communications and fundraising for the most part over the past 11 years. In this new endeavor, the tall and lean blue-eyed blonde sought to relieve accumulated work stress, pursue a passion and start a new trend in the area. Black Rock seemed the perfect setting, more intimate than Westport or Fairfield, allowing her to have a more personal connection with her clientele.
“I like this neighborhood because of its social consciousness and nice mix of people and ideas. As you move up this way, there are fewer healthy eating options… and people are looking for them. They tell me ‘Thank God you’re here.’”
The 425-square-foot shop was vacant when she found it and needed to be renovated and outfitted to meet her needs. “Just like cooking, I like to start from scratch,” joked the chef/owner. Now the space is inviting with light green pastel colored walls, paintings of flowers, potted herbs and a stone-tiled floor. Behind these homey accents is the equipment of her trade: a stainless steel refrigerated display case for grab-and-go’s, a 32,000 BTU six-burner stove and 3-door stainless steel refrigerator.
While Soper has “always cooked and is fascinated by the possibilities of food,” she required more formal training to prepare for this undertaking. As such, she enrolled in a chef’s training internship program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in Manhattan and achieved a chef’s diploma a year later.
“It’s been a healthy evolution. The more you learn, the more you incorporate it into what you do. School also helped expose me to some new areas. And I always believed that people should be cooking their own food,” said Soper. While that would be ideal, she also realizes that they don’t necessarily have the time, so her to-go offerings are ideal.
While her menu changes weekly, some mainstays include wheatberry and quinoa salad, tofu and peanut salad, wraps, lots of vegan options, gluten-free choices and baked goods including muffins, cookies, blondies and granola.
Soper believes that people should eat food grown as closely to the source as possible for several reasons: (1) It’s undoubtedly fresher, with more retained nutrients. (2) People should eat what’s in season in their area. (3) We should be supporting local agricultural systems and move away from the industrial agricultural systems that are not sustainable. “Centralized food production is a scary thing,” she opines. “And dangerous. Did you notice how the recent E Coli breakout became a national issue? The food is distributed widely from a central point.”
Soper is also very “green” movement supportive as her business name suggests. This incorporation is about the environmental impact of eating a vegetarian diet. “It’s better for people and the world. You can feed more people on the planet with a vegetarian-based diet than meat-based. The products I use are made from sustainable resources. And I do my best to lessen the impact of my output.”
As to the “Gourmet” aspect of the business, this refers to the quality, preparation and planning of her food as well as a love of food and good ingredients. She strives to create interesting and inspired ways to bring ingredients together.
Of course, the “To Go” element of the shop is all about giving people quick, healthy food options. But Soper offers much more than that to the diverse segment she serves, who have varied needs. “I have the nicest customers in the world. A mix of working people, young couples, moms with kids… predominantly female. My customers range from people with very specific dietary issues to others that just want to eat a little more healthy.” Besides healthy food options, Soper encourages people to cook and loans them cookbooks and other resources to help educate them about healthy foods. She adds that she hopes to sell topical books and other items in the near future.
Soper is also introducing a “Kids Healthy Lunch Program” wherein she will design a healthy lunch program for school-aged children. Interested parents will pre-pay a weekly fee and Soper will have freshly prepared selections waiting for them for pick-up each school morning.
Get inspired about healthy eating options. Visit GreenGourmetToGo today!
GreenGourmetToGo is located at 2984 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport, CT. 203-873-0057. www.GreenGourmetToGo.com