Jeff Bednar of Profound Foods has been going at quite a clip since the beginning of the pandemic. His business has gone from selling boutique microgreens to restaurants—functioning as a liaison between farmers and chefs—to becoming a direct retail outlet for individuals at home. And now he’s adding meal kits to the roster via Profound Kitchen, a new spin-off from the farm. It’s mission: Turn local produce into a chef-curated meal for folks to cook at home.
Bednar’s enlisted the help of Nick Walker, former executive chef at Virgin Hotel Dallas and CBD Provisions before that, to helm the Profound Kitchen project. (Currently, Walker is volunteering at Staff Meal, which he cofounded, and which distributes weekly meals to service industry workers.)
The goal is to expand to a six to eight person team, build a commercial kitchen on the farm and an event space for dinners. Bednar and Walker envision farm tours, cooking classes, and guest chef dinners. For now, Walker is working out of a restaurant kitchen that has been made available to Profound Kitchen. “It’s a crazy situation. This pandemic kind of forced me down a lane I’ve never been down,” says Walker. A Paycheck Protection Program loan, secured in the second round of funding, has allowed Bednar to pull enough employees to flesh out a small staff.
“It’s definitely creating challenges,” Bednar says. “We’re bootstrapping it and also trying to be really pragmatic about how things can continue to change in the dynamic of COVID.” But his motto has always been “surround yourself with awesome people and you can do awesome things. Let everybody do what they do best.”
For Walker, this means overseeing four domains. First and primary is the meal kit program, which will launch in the next several weeks. They’re starting small, with a hot option that will include sous-vide proteins and sauces or chutneys for the finishing and assembly of cooked meals, and a salad option designed to highlight the bounty of Profound microgreens paired with local proteins. Video demos and recipe cards will come with each meal kit.
Also under the Profound Kitchen umbrella will be a pantry of what they’re dubbing “value-added” goods, including a proprietary pesto; handmade pastas made from Barton Springs Mill grains; herb-infused oils; jams that capitalize on their orchard ties; dried spices and seasoning blends; jerky (Walker is not quite jumping into charcuterie, but has a recipe that’s pepper-heavy and leans heavily into star anise); and bone broth and stock simmered from the wealth of bones they receive from ranchers—12 to 18 items total for a small larder.
Last week, Walker was stocking up on clamshells for microgreens and Mason jars for pestos and sauces. What will distinguish Profound Kitchen from meal-kit services like Blue Apron and Freshly is the exclusive use of local, in-season produce. “How do you try to use almost only in-season stuff?” It’s both the challenge and thrill for a chef. As farmers and ranchers drop off their goods each week, Walker will be able to ask what they have or anticipate having in abundance. Texas Craft Wagyu might have extra short ribs that can be marinated sous-vide for 48 hours and added to the bounty of kohlrabi coming out of Reeves Family Farms for a hot meal kit.
It’s about putting the produce to work. There’s bounty; it’s just a question of harnessing it. (This is especially true as we enter the produce-flush summer.) For instance, this week marks the beginning of peach season at Winona Orchards, the farm north of Tyler with which Profound partners. “The peaches about to come off are insanely juicy and delicious,” says Bednar. “And so it’s, like, ‘Okay, cool we need pickled peaches, we need peach jam. We need peach everything. We’re looking for where can we collaborate. How many farms can we get into a meal kit?”
And Bednar is looking forward to the new program allowing him to circle back to herbs that he grieved at having to tear out—the augustache and nasturtiums that were going to chefs. Now, he says, Walker will be able to “take the things we wanna grow again and turn them into something accessible.” Their dozen varieties of basil might find their way back into a lemon basil pesto or Thai basil peach sauce.
For more information, follow along Profound Foods’ social media as meal kits become available. At last update, Bednar was looking to release a limited run of peach jam on Friday this week, with meal kits and 12 pantry items available next week. Check out an announcement video they released on Facebook last week.