Sam Fox, Dr. Weil’s 9-year-old Chain Growing Stronger
At True Food Kitchen in Chicago’s trendy River North area, the menu is literally just what the doctor ordered. The restaurant — created by Dr. Andrew Weil and entrepreneur Sam Fox — opened in November 2016 as the latest in a growing chain of True Food restaurants based on Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid.
“We’re using a lot of the superfoods,” says Michael Sullivan, master chef at True Food Kitchen in Chicago. “We use a lot of the Himalayan berry sea buckhorn, which is a superfood, as is turmeric and garlic, when used properly.”
Weil met Fox in the late 1990s and the pair quickly saw the possibilities of a culinary partnership. When their flagship True Food Kitchen opened in Phoenix nine years ago, Weil described the cuisine as having both “Mediterranean elements and lots of Asian food, especially ingredients from Japanese cuisine. It’s a mix of the two healthiest food cultures in the world, the same one that’s reflected in the anti-inflammatory food pyramid I developed.”
The anti-inflammatory diet features an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables at the base, beans or legumes daily, whole grains or pasta a few times a week, plus healthy fats, fish, unlimited amounts of cooked Asian mushrooms and herbs; at the top of the pyramid is a daily glass of red wine and a treat of dark chocolate, eaten sparingly.
“I would say we follow his pyramid very closely,” says Sullivan. “Andy was there at the beginning, and he’s been a big part of developing the menus.”
There is not just one menu at True Food Kitchen but four. The health-driven, seasonal restaurant merges nutrient-rich ingredients with a flavor-forward menu that rotates regularly with the seasons.
Signature dishes include Spaghetti Squash Casserole, Inside Out Quinoa Burger, Scottish Steelhead, flavorful and healthful bowls, pizzas and antioxidant-packed desserts. The recent spring menu features vegetable dishes, including Torched Avocado with cucumber noodle, mushroom, snap pea, radish, sesame and turmeric ponzu, and entrees like the Poke Bowl with wild caught albacore, avocado, quinoa rice, mushroom, snow pea, cucumber, cashew and turmeric ponzu.
The spring drinks menu includes Blueberry Royale, a mix of organic vodka, lemon, prosecco, and mint, or Farmers Market Sangria with organic white wine, spiced brandy, lime and pineapple.
“Kale is a staple we use year-round, and a lot of organic lettuces that we can always find, including Romaine,” says Sullivan.
True Food Kitchen sources its produce from Fresh Concepts, a Murrieta, CA-based company with a Chicago regional office. The company works with local distributor Dalmares Produce. The restaurant consults the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables, and adds its own items, in deciding whether to source produce organically. “Any leafy greens we use are organic,” says Sullivan. “We work with local partners on sourcing the produce. In the off-season, we end up working with partners out of Arizona, where we’re based, Southern California, Southern Texas and Florida.”
Sullivan has a few forbidden pleasures of his that are not allowed in the True Food Kitchen. “Every chef likes to cook with his favorite ingredients,” he says. “We don’t serve pork in the restaurant, but I eat pork at home. But for the most part, most ingredients can be used if we use them properly.”
Proper use includes meeting strict standards when it comes to sourcing protein, especially animal protein. “We use beef, but it is 100 percent grass-fed. We’re not going to use commercial beef. All the proteins are sustainably raised or wild.”
There are currently 17 True Food Kitchen restaurants across the country. The company is slated to open new locations in Bethesda, MD; King of Prussia, PA; Nashville; Boca Raton, FL; Plano, TX; and San Diego.
True Food Kitchen
1 W Erie Street
Mon – Fri: 11:00am – 3:00pm
Fri 11 am – 2 am
Sat 10 am – 2 am
Sun 10 am – 1 am
Mon – Thurs: 3:00pm – 10:00pm
Sat: 3:00pm – 11:00pm
Sun: 3:00pm – 9:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am – 3:00pm