I first met Kim Sawyers in 2017 when she was applying for a grant offered by the Feed Justice Team (of which I am a member) at First Unitarian Universalist (FUU) Church. We were looking for someone with a home-based culinary business who would benefit from use of the church’s large commercial commissary kitchen from which both the Feed Justice Team and CrescentCare’s Food for Friends program operate.
I remember her sharing the heartbreaking story of the experience that inspired her to change her life. A New Orleans native with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Xavier University, in 2014 she had just obtained her Master’s Degree in Public Health from Tulane University when she took a trip to Taiwan. She stood out because she was African American. She really stood out because she was more than 100 pounds overweight.
“One of our last days there, we took a trip to the beach and a group of local guys made a bet to see who could lift me up. I had never been so embarrassed in my life. That hurtful moment was my turning point.
“It inspired me to do something about me,” says Sawyers, 29. The lowest point in my life led to my greatest revelation.”
She returned home and, battling obesity and pre diabetes, she learned how to eat fresh, non-processed foods and to move more. In 2016, she founded Clean Course Meals, a gourmet, health-focused meal prep and delivery service out of her New Orleans home. The difference between Sawyers’ company and others like hers was her mission to educate low-income communities where change was needed most. She also offers personal fitness training.
“There are vulnerable residents in our community that need additional education and incentives to make healthy choices for their families,” Sawyers says. “Prevention is the most significant guiding principle toward building a healthy community and nutrition education is necessary
to accomplish this. We educate the community through the Clean Course Healthier Families Initiative,” the educational portion of her business.
After a little over a year of turning out hundreds of meals working weekends and some nights from the FUU kitchen, Kim, a mother of three, won the fourth annual Startup St. Bernard pitch competition: a $100,000 prize package of cash and in-kind services that would help take Clean Course Meals to a brick and mortar location. To qualify the business had to relocate to St. Bernard Parish.
In November Clean Course Meals opened at 1800 E. Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette. Now, in addition to subscribing to the company’s meal preparation and delivery service (a week of customized meals is delivered every Monday), a storefront cafe is open for quick grab-and-go wraps, salads (a favorite is the roasted butternut squash and seasonal citrus salad) and grill bowls, as well as daily plate lunch specials including red beans with brown jasmine rice, roasted Cajun cauliflower and a side salad (Mondays). On Wednesdays choose from grilled Jerk chicken or roasted chickpeas with Spanish cauliflower rice, both served with rosemary sweet potato wedges and garlic broccoli. On Saturday choose from a Thai turkey burger or a Thai black bean burger, both are served with roasted sweet potato fries and a side salad.
Clean Course Meals
1800 E. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 603.8101, CleanCourseMeals.com
Bearcat offers “Good Cat” and “Bad Cat” menu options, making it possible for meat-eating, fried food devotees to dine peacefully with those seeking more healthful vegan options.
On a recent visit I was dining with my friend Dan Robert, a dyed-in-the-wool Cajun who spent 25 years as a meat inspector with the USDA. This guy has no interest in a vegan tofu scramble, so he opted for the daily special: a hefty split buttermilk biscuit crowned with a deep fried soft-shell crab under a blanket of crawfish cream gravy. I went for the Vegan Quesadilla: tofu scramble, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onion, cashew queso and avocado. Everyone was happy.
2521 Jena St., 309-9011, BearcatCafe.com