Anita Jones-Mueller, M.P.H., president and founder of Healthy Dining, a nutrition-related marketing and consulting firm, interviews Jesse Gideon, corporate chef and COO of Fresh to Order, about the “fast-fine” concept based in Atlanta. This interview and others can be seen at Healthy Dining’s Restaurant Nutrition News & Insights.

Hi Jesse. I’m excited to talk with you more about Fresh to Order, or F2O for short. I’m especially interested in finding out how you are so successful at serving ‘fine food fast.’ That’s hard to do!

You’re not kidding (laughing)! We have forged our own new category. We call it ‘fine fast’ because our pledge to our guests is that we are a notch above fast casual, and they will receive the freshest, finest ingredients in less than 10 minutes for around $10. That has been the secret to our success.

That is exactly what so many people are looking for: fresh, high-quality offerings that are reasonably priced, even when in a hurry. How can you do all that and do it well?

We start simply with high-quality, fresh ingredients and then allow them to speak for themselves. That means we don’t need to cover up or add masking flavors by adding fats or sodium to make it taste better. Instead, we rely on the natural intense flavors of our ingredients. Maintaining that integrity helps with consistency and speed and also minimizes prep and labor costs.

We have great relationships with our suppliers, and that means they treat us well. They know we pay more for high quality and they deliver it to us. It costs us more but it is worth it to us and to our guests.

That’s great. Tell us how you started F2O.

I was the corporate chef at Brookwood Grill, a fine-dining restaurant in Atlanta owned by Pierre Panos. Pierre and I started talking about F2O back in the early 2000’s. We knew there was a market for finer dining done healthier and without the expense or time, especially for lunch. We talked a lot about how to take Brookwood’s success and transform that quality and guest experience in less than 10 minutes for less than $10. The more we talked, the more we found the inspiration for Fresh to Order.

We launched our first location in midtown Atlanta in 2006, and now we have eight locations with ten more in development.

I hope you are coming to California!

We’d like to get to California, but right now we are focusing on the east coast, moving into Florida, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic states and continuing to expand in the Atlanta suburbs. We have a few more east coast states on the radar, but we are keeping that info close to our chef coats.  

That’s exciting. You have some really great items featured on How important is health and nutrition to Fresh to Order and to your guests?

It is very important, and it’s easy for us to produce. Health is a byproduct of how both Pierre and I like to eat. Our emphasis on local, fresh ingredients that are minimally processed gives us a great variety of healthful options.

We start with lean proteins like fire-grilled chicken breast, blackened lime shrimp, bourbon grilled salmon, house-roasted turkey, grilled filet, almond-rosemary-crusted tuna and seared tofu. Then we serve those in a panini, on a salad or as a main entrée.