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Fill your bowl

July/August 2019 California Bountiful magazine

Cousins' culinary concept stems from family tradition




Kristen De Groot-Vaz says one of her goals in opening Farm Fresh Bowls was to showcase the hard work and good-tasting products of local farmers. Photo: © 2019 Tomas Ovalle

There's a Dutch word—gezellig—that has no English equivalent, but conveys a sense of connection between people.

"It means like a family time," said Kristen De Groot-Vaz, who has Dutch roots.

It's that cozy conviviality of gezellig she and cousin Jacqueline Baxley experienced growing up on family farms in Visalia, where every meal was homecooked and enjoyed together at the family table. And it's the atmosphere they sought to recreate when they opened Farm Fresh Bowls in Visalia in 2013.

De Groot-Vaz studied agriculture business and nutrition in college, attended culinary school and worked in the foodservice program of a Beverly Hills country club prior to launching the business.

"I really wanted to bring that all together—the nutrition, the culinary school, being raised in a very European-style family—in a concept that would showcase California agriculture and give that feel to customers," she said. "What we came up with was serving quick meals that are healthy, that use local ingredients."

The cousins chose a bowl concept primarily because "you can create a full meal in a bowl that is perfectly balanced nutritionally."

"Everything that's in our bowls is usable energy," De Groot-Vaz said. "I love owning a restaurant where you can smile and say, 'Have a great day,' because this is going to make your day great. You are going to feel good after eating it."

Owning the restaurants—the cousins expanded to Fresno in 2016—also provides De Groot-Vaz an enhanced sense of community around what she calls her family of employees.

"I love the kids that work for me," she said. "A big part of Farm Fresh is also impacting the lives of our employees. We care about them, they care about our customers. It's a whole atmosphere: healthy bowls from healthy people to make people healthy and happy."

There's a word for that.

Barbara Arciero

Recipes

Teriyaki quinoa bowl

Warm overnight oats

Caprese orzo

Açai smoothie

The California wedge


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