Taking Over, Organically

Food Thoughts with Sheryl Estrada

True friendships are organic - they come forth naturally. Friends Kirk Nelson, Andre Walker and Roosevelt Desir each shared a common goal of using their self-taught culinary skills to improve the way their community eats, which resulted in the creation of the catering/personal chef venture, Be Organic, LLC.

"Be Organic, LLC was founded by the three of us out of the lack of health and wellness education we saw in our surrounding communities," Nelson said.

Founded in 2005, and incorporated in 2007, Be Organic, LLC is a mobile catering company, which began in Miami, Fla., now based in Broward County. The friends actually started in a small farmers' market in the Upper East Side of Miami, with only one table.

"We didn't even have a tent to shelter us from the sun," Nelson said. "We figured we'd start off small to get a better feel for both the market and its customers. We wanted to create dishes that could appeal to a broad palette of tastes, so we introduced our now famous Mango Mousse."

Within the first two hours they were sold out, and included different dishes the next week.

The company strictly uses organic food in catering. They use produce from local farmers, and shop for meat, poultry and seafood at kosher meat suppliers and Whole Foods Market.The friends believe an organic lifestyle has many health and environmental benefits.

Walker explained, "Organic food is food in its natural state - no chemicals, no hormones. It provides your body with the right amount of nutrition you need daily."

"The impact on the planet overall is lower," said Desir. "The meat we consume, while being raised, goes through a more natural process of free range-grazing on the land, and not being manufactured in crowded and sometimes horrible living conditions."

Be Organic has had the opportunity to cater an organic meal for President Barack Obama, his family and staff when he campaigned for the presidency in Miami. They have also catered meals for "CSI: Miami" staff and Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Dara Torres.

Similar to their belief in using organic products in cooking, Nelson, Walker and Desir believe promotion of healthy eating can also start at the grass-roots level. In 2009 they created the Organic Takeover movement.

"Organic Takeover is a movement designed to take chefs out of the kitchen and into the streets to educate people about eating, and living a better lifestyle," Nelson said. "Within the last 10 years we have noticed a rise in diabetes, cancer and obesity in adults and kids. The science diet or conventional food that is found in all supermarkets nationwide is a major factor in the health crisis facing us," he explained.

Within that movement they created The Be Organic Takeover Tour 2009, in which the three rode 40 miles a day for 40 days around the state of Florida to promote healthy eating awareness. Not only did they raise community awareness, but learned personal lessons.

"The Organic Takeover is the starting point of all achievement toward a healthier lifestyle, with an emphasis on whatever the mind of a person can conceive, they can achieve," said Desir.

Desir was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2005. He received a bone marrow transplant, and the disease in currently in remission. He attributes his well-being to an organic lifestyle.

In continuing their efforts, the team also hosted an Organic Takeover at the Miami Children's Hospital where the patients had the opportunity to cook with them.

During the holiday season, the company has been hired to host cooking demo classes for small groups to teach them how to make healthy, but tasty holiday meals. They are working with First Lady Michelle Obama's program "Chefs Move to Schools," designed to help provide healthier lunch menu options. And, also are busy creating pies, and holiday baskets for sale.

In 2011, they aspire to make the Organic Takeover movement into a nonprofit organization. They plan to make Be Organic cooking sauces available in stores around Florida, and finish work on a cookbook. The trio also hopes to have an opportunity to be a part of the Food Network South Beach Food & Wine Festival.

According to Walker, "Whether we are doing a cooking demo or speaking engagement our passion is evident and well received. To date opening the minds of people who are closed off to trying new things is significant in our movement. If we show them the luxury of living longer days, and a better lifestyle, we believe the seeds to our mission have been planted."