Love Your Food Everyday reverberates with the charged mantra of health food activists vociferating the essence of a whole foods lifestyle. As the nomenclature for a new “revolutionary” fast food restaurant model, Love Your Food Everyday Kitchen (better known as Lyfe Kitchen) is a pithy philosophy that contains a mouthful of meaning on which consumers can chew. This budding fast food chain proselytizes the principles of expeditiously serving appealing, nutritive food to alleviate the anxieties of a public overwhelmed by the immensity of modern food choices.
Lyfe Kitchen is the clever creation of the discerning entrepreneur and business leader, Mike Roberts. As McDonald’s former executive and as a pioneer for the fast food chain’s healthier menu options, Roberts brings a specialized acumen to the development of his latest project. With the success of the Lyfe Kitchen prototype in Palo Alto, California, Roberts endeavors to expand his brainchild into another ten restaurants across the country within a year. As evidenced by his noteworthy career, Roberts appears to have the Midas Touch. Additionally, with the financial support of 120 investors including celebrity chefs and athletes, Roberts unequivocally will actualize his mission to proliferate hundreds (if not thousands) of Lyfe Kitchens throughout the country and around the world. By multiplying this healthy, fast food model, Roberts holds the possibility of refashioning our existing contentious food system by creating a New Slow Fast Food Movement.
From the vantage of the shoal, Lyfe Kitchen appears to support the organic, sustainable lifestyle in a number of ways. For example, its menu abounds with “farm fresh”, “locally grown”, “vegan”, and “gluten-free” nutritious food options. Furthermore, Lyfe Kitchen extracts the immense benefits of technology by utilizing new, environmentally sustainable ovens, freezers, and other machinery essential to commercial kitchens. With the efficacy of these technologies, the fast food restaurant aims to reduce the misuse of food and time experienced in other kitchens. Additionally, it endeavors to make healthy, organic foods accessible to more people through lower prices. Moreover, Lyfe Kitchen is emerging at an advantageous time for success.
However, if we, as the consuming public, were to dip under the ripples of the trendy tag words (such as “organic”, “sustainable”, and “biodynamic”) that are attached to restaurant’s image, would we really discover the altruistic benefits it claims to offer? For instance, Roberts indicates in a number of articles that his primary impetus is for Lyfe Kitchen to quickly grow. While this is not an atypical goal for many starting businesses, it seems contrary to the realities of organic food production. Roberts counters this reality with the lofty mission of “transforming the way the world produces organic ingredients”.
At first glance, this objective may appear to be an honest attempt to increase the production of organic foods. However, the idea of transforming organic food production also sounds an alarm that Lyfe Kitchen will increase the demand for organics before the process of growing organic foods has been modified. Any farmer who is currently following USDA standards can attest that establishing and maintaining an organic food certification is an intensive and extensive process containing such stipulations as contaminate-free soil 3 years post-harvest among many other qualifications. Even with the rigid standards, organic food purists are concerned with a degeneration in quality control as organic production shifts to fulfill demands of Big Business. With Roberts’ intention for restaurant expansion and for highlighting organic foods, there is the real possibility that his efforts will contribute to further denigration of standards that could render the “organic” label as nebulous.
Furthermore, with the soaring goal of creating a chain of restaurants that will “revolutionize” our food, Roberts tintinnabulates as a bit of a spin doctor, tweaking a tale about how much he and Lyfe Kitchen are contributing to the world. This skepticism is further fueled by articles that portray Roberts as a type of “holy man” who gives up the path toward priesthood in his youth to better the world through fast food. These images of Roberts and his work resound as disingenuous when paralleled with his thirty year career as a leading force at McDonald’s. While being a cutting edge company, McDonald’s also has a mixed history streaked with instances of perpetuating inhumane practices towards animals and engaging in unfair treatment of employees. With these conflicting images, it is challenging to discern whether Roberts is really attempting a humanitarian effort through the creation of Lyfe Kitchen or if he is cleverly bamboozling us into buying some phoney, organic, vegan baloney. What do you think?
*image from UCLA University of Gastronomic Sciences
*Lyfe Kitchen image from Fine Dining Lovers
*Lyfe Kitchen food image from Grist
*Spin Doctor from Three River’s Episcopal