Recently, we had the opportunity to get a sneak peak of one of Jacksonville’s many food business start-ups: FreshJax.
FreshJax is already doing a booming business with their snacks, condiments, spice blends and other goodies at Riverside Arts Market every Saturday, at various other farmers markets around town, and with their online sales. But the “sneak peak” part of the exhibition dinner we attended involved a very exciting announcement: FreshJax will be opening its very own brick-and-mortar establishment in Mandarin!
Having a permanent location will allow the Fresh team to implement a multi-pronged business model. Not only will the storefront feature their products, but they will also offer a juice bar and healthy takeaway options for lunch. Every Saturday night they plan to host a farm-to-table dinner featuring fresh, local ingredients.
Concern about the high rate of obesity in the U.S. and all the health problems associated with it was part of the inspiration for starting the business. Jason MacDonald, President and CEO of FreshJax, faced these problems first-hand while working 70-hour weeks. He was overweight, had high blood pressure and cholesterol, and had digestion issues. He says, “FreshJax was born after I had changed my life and realized that there were not many good options in Jax for truly healthy and delicious foods to eat on a daily basis.” And at FreshJax, true health isn’t just about what you eat; it’s about taking care of the whole person. Next door to the storefront there will be a fitness center featuring yoga classes by University of North Florida yoga instructor Hillary MacDonald, Fresh’s cofounder and Fitness Director. In other words, you’ll be able to get supplies for “fresh”ening your home dinners, a ready-to-eat lunch and a little “om” and exercise all in one place!
So when you read “healthy takeaway options,” we’re betting your first thought was, “Uh-huh. How’s the food taste?” You can see from the menu that Fresh focuses on real food: no rice cakes on a lettuce leaf here! This is food meant to nourish the body and the senses, prepared with love and a creative twist. The cashew cheese is just one example. If you’ve ever tried a nut-based cheese before, you would have been very, very surprised biting into this one. It had the tang of an aged dairy cheese! FreshJax’s head chef, Chef Johnny Vines, explained that it was due to his burgeoning interest in the art of fermentation. “I fermented it so it has that aged-cheddar bite to it, but I also wanted to give it a little rind, so I put it in the dehydrator.” That kind of care is the mark of a chef who really loves what he does and the mark of a business that values that kind of honest dedication.
All we know is that we hope Fresh sells that cheese in their storefront! And the cookies and mousse we had for dessert. Ooh! And we’ll be getting some of that cool, creamy avocado kale salad for lunch too. But don’t take our word for it: Ask anyone you know who goes to RAM about Fresh. We’d bet big money their answer would involve “coconut bacon” and “a-MA-zing.”