Chef Jared Cannon didn’t set out to create an innovative way to deliver quick, convenient, low-calorie, healthy meals to the masses when he enrolled in cooking school.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and the Florida International University School of Hospitality, Cannon has cooked in various kitchens from New York to Miami. His impressive resume includes stints at The Ritz-Carlton, Di Bruno Bros. and Tria, and he has opened several honeygrow locations.
Throughout his career, he noticed the need for a provider of “healthy food quick” — and he sought a model that eliminated waste by reusing packaging and had a socially responsible element that allowed him to combat hunger by giving back.
Four years ago, Cannon began to develop a business plan. He would create healthy, organic meals in jars, layered in a way that maintained freshness for up to five days. Mainly salad based, the jars would include dressing on the bottom, often a grain of some type, a protein — such as roasted tofu, salmon, beef or chicken — and a selection of vegetables. To prepare it, customers would just shake and eat.
The jars would then be returned, reducing waste and, for each jar returned, the company would donate to an organization that fights hunger. But how to deliver? How to finance? What about logistics? It was then that Cannon recognized a need for an MBA, so he enrolled at Temple University.
Along the way, he met fiancé Carrie Krantz, a law school graduate and former clerk for a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, who was raised in a Conservative, kosher home in Margate, N.J. As the couple fleshed out their plans, Cannon experimented with recipes and logistics and Krantz reviewed contracts and vendor agreements. They used crowdfunding to raise their launch costs and took the plunge on Oct 17, 2017.
Initially, the business was a subscription model, in which customers would enroll and receive deliveries to their offices. The concept boomed and, before long, Simply Good Jars had a waiting list of 750. They had to revise their plan since they couldn’t meet demand.
They acquired “Smart Fridges,” which function more or less like vending machines, and customers pay via Venmo, the SimplyGoodJars app or PayPal. Cannon and Krantz arranged to have the fridges placed in various sites throughout the area, such as gyms, office buildings, school lobbies and co-working spaces.
“We needed to be where our customers live and work, and this system has been really successful,” Krantz said, noting planned expansions to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore in 2019.
In addition to the Smart Fridge delivery system, Simply Good Jars were sold at several farmers markets. However, as the weather turned colder, many markets have closed for the season. Not wanting to give up this mode of sale, Simply Good Jars found a home at Reading Terminal Market as a day cart Sunday through Thursday. All of the jars sold there contain ingredients sourced completely from terminal merchants.
Simply Good Jars offers a variety of menu options, with at least 50 percent of them vegetarian or vegan.
“This is the only way for my parents — who keep kosher — to enjoy the meals. We tested one of our first [spicy vegan] jars on my parents,” Krantz said. “They loved it. Oftentimes, vegan and vegetarian dishes in mainstream restaurants are bland and boring, but this jar has a great flavor and some kick. It is still one of our most popular items.”
In addition to the spicy vegan, lunch and dinner options include about a dozen other combinations: Spanish tuna, chimichurri beef, chicken quinoa, smoked duck and raw pad thai, to name a few. All top out at 600 calories, with some significantly less. Most of the breakfast jars contain less than 350 calories; these generally include fruit, yogurt or nondairy/nut milk, seeds, nuts and/or grains.
When asked about connecting her background to the current business, Krantz explained.
“Jewish culture and food are so intertwined. In addition, Simply Good Jars has a strong commitment to community, which is inherent in our traditions,” she said, noting donations to Philabundance and program called TasteBuds in which Cannon partners with individuals with developmental disabilities to create new recipes. “Our mission … is to be inclusive and accommodate everyone.”
Krantz and Cannon were happy to share their chimichurri vinaigrette, which they use in their chimichurri beef jar and chimichurri seitan jars. Krantz called it “a versatile recipe that will make any dish more interesting.”
Makes about 2 cups
1 bunch fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh mint
½ bunch fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
⅛ teaspoon chili flake
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Wash, dry and roughly chop the parsley, mint and cilantro.
Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend for 45 to 60 seconds (until well blended and smooth).
Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. The dressing may be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to two weeks.
Here are some ways to use the dressing:
Enjoy over any steak (especially skirt steak), fish or chicken;
Add to a grain, pasta or potato salad to bring the salad to life;
Use it as a dressing on a leafy green salad;
Incorporate it in a bruschetta; or
Simply enjoy over raw or roasted vegetables.
Keri White is a freelance writer and a Jewish Exponent food columnist.