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Coolgreens — where eating healthy is not a punishment

By Dave Cathey Modified: July 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm •  Published: May 18, 2010

Coolgreens executive chef Trey Ferguson says his job is not just presenting a nice plate of food.

"I see the customer as a product of my food," he said.

Customers entrust him with feeding them, so he reciprocates with the most delicious food he can muster while contributing to their good health.

"I like my customers," Ferguson said. "Why would I want to serve them something that would harm their health?"

But before you dismiss Coolgreens as a health-food restaurant, know that its first commitment is to deliciousness.

"Eating healthy doesn't have to be punishment," partner Chris Lower said.

It helps to have a classically trained chef, such as Ferguson, a graduate of The Coach House apprenticeship program, conceive the menu and execute it with fresh ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible.

What you will find are wraps, salads, flatbread pizzas and soups that are made with those ingredients, locally baked bread, house-made dressings and condiments artistically prepared and expertly executed. You'll also find frozen tart yogurt served with fresh fruit and house-made granola.

What you won't find are potato chips or soda pop. Nor will you find Skittles, toffee or crumbled Oreo cookies to mix with the yogurt.

With the temptation of processed foods removed, it's much easier to try it healthy and learn that delicious doesn't come in a can, box or aerosol can. "Some of my friends said, 'You're not even going to have Diet Coke?' " managing partner Allan McMurrain said. "And we almost caved in."

"But then we decided we had to stay true to what this place is all about," Lower said.

The credo is simple: delicious, healthy food. No concessions. If it's delicious but unhealthy or healthy but not delicious, go elsewhere.

"We don't have any high-fructose corn syrup," Ferguson said. "The only sugar in any of our food is in the frozen yogurt right now, but we're trying to find a way to change that."

Change is risky considering how successful the place has been. Despite a menu that one would think lent itself best to the spring and summer, Coolgreens opened in mid-September 2009 and breezed through fall and winter, building a growing fan base each month. That brought about the happy accident of soup, and flatbread pizzas, too.

"We were saving our chicken scraps," McMurrain said. "And Chris was looking for a way to fit the menu in better with the seasons."

"So we came up with soup," Ferguson said.

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