OMAR EPPERSON! 6 Sep 2012
you've ever enjoyed a Lithe smoothie or tucked into any of our a la
carte Lithe meals, you have experienced the artistry of Omar Epperson,
one of just a few sets of hands that bring us the lean, local, seasonal
and (mostly) vegan Lithe Foods that have been designed specifically for
our Lithe lifestyles.
Having grown up in Germantown, Omar is no stranger to the food scene in Philly and knows the bounty of our regional foodshed well. But he wasn't always interested in becoming a chef. Prior to joining the U.S. Army (he's a Combat Engineer) to help pay for his college tuition in 2007, Omar was hoping to nab a job as a barrista at a local Chestnut Hill coffeeshop to help make ends meet. They did indeed hire him, but all set in the coffee department, they asked him to try his hand at baking (and cooking) in the back.
Turns out, Omar was a natural and stayed on for almost 4 years turning out delicious treats, sweet and otherwise, to go with the constant stream of warm, frothy drinks being sipped there. Realizing he could make a career out of his penchant for pastry, he enrolled in the Restaurant School in West Philly to learn Pastry Arts. After 2 years, and a stint at a local eatery, Omar came highly recommended to Lithe Foods where he says his education really began.
What did you know about Lithe Method before you became a chef for Lithe Foods?
I knew that it was a workout that ladies were going crazy over. That it was a big deal in Philly.
What did you think of the concept of Lithe Foods when you were introduced to it?
I thought: This is crazy! I was so excited to learn about healthful ingredients like quinoa and tofu and millet. Ingredients that I knew about, but hadn't really worked with extensively. I was looking forward to the challenge of enhancing them and making them into something delicious and also good for you. I was truly wowed by the whole thing.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love knowing that I'm not just putting food on a shelf or even just providing fuel for a workout; I'm giving women the proper nutrition to live a lifestyle. I love giving women the treats they love, but in a healthy way. When I help turn a cheesteak into something healthful AND tasty, I feel like a magician.
Who comes up with the recipes?
Lauren and the Lithe Foods team comes up with the recipes. She (Lauren) always has fresh ideas about healthy versions of things everybody loves. After she's worked on it for a while, in her own kitchen, and feels good about it, she hands it off to me to see how it fares in larger batches in our commercial kitchen. Then I'll tell her how it's working in the bigger quantities, and give her feedback to take back to her drawing board, if need be. It's a great little dance where she's the lead.
Has working for Lithe Foods changed the way you cook at home?
Absolutely! It's definitely made me realize I don't have to eat meat every single night or with every single meal. I've learned that I can scramble tofu for breakfast in the morning, instead of eggs. I can use quinoa instead of white rice. If I'm in the mood for chicken, I can prepare some tofu in the style of chicken and enjoy it just as much. It's really been so eye-opening for my own diet.
What are your favorite Lithe Foods?
I love the pizza bites. I could eat them all day. And the Winter Recovery Smoothie. And the Lithe Mojito.
You are getting deployed in the next few weeks. We are going to miss you tremendously! Where will you be going?
I'm going to Kuwait for a year. I'll really miss the kitchen, but definitely hope to be back and cooking Lithe Foods again by this time next year. In the meantime, I know that no matter where I end up, I will take along the things Lithe Foods has taught me and bring that healthy, balanced perspective to every meal I make.
Image of PFC Rice and PFC Epperson from Charlie Company 55th BSTB of the PA National Guard conducting demolition training at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, PA (10/10/2011) and Omar outside of the Lithe Foods kitchen via Lauren