Staff Spotlight: Purchasing Manager Jared Jaggers


Last week I sat down with our purchasing manager, Jared Jaggers, to find out a little more about him, his role at  Gourmet Gorilla, and how he works with Gourmet Gorilla’s mission to source sustainable ingredients for all of the meals we create each day.

DS: How long have you been working at Gourmet Gorilla?

JJ: 5 years!

And what is your official Title?

Purchasing Manager

Tell us a little about yourself; What led you to working to Gourmet Gorilla, and this position in particular?

I have a background in Environmental Studies and Biology. I was working for a private Ecological Landscaping company before working at Gourmet Gorilla, and one of my co-workers left the company to start working here. He later referred me to an open position in inventory and I left the Ecological Landscaping company to begin working here. I moved around in the company a bit, later working in a logistics management position, at that time we had about 10 trucks, 10 drivers, and 100 schools. When the purchasing manager position opened up, I wanted to move into that position. I am more of a numbers person anyway, so that position appealed to me more than the logistics manager. I wanted to be more focused on the kitchen side of things and already had the background knowledge from working in inventory. I have been doing purchasing now for about 4 years.

 The Famous Lion-O!

The Famous Lion-O!

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to play video games and I try and be in a sport team; In the summer it’s volleyball or kickball, and I’m about to join a soccer team. Basically hanging out and relaxing with my wife and my cat, Lion-O.

What policies and standards does Gourmet Gorilla have around purchasing?

We are looking through every ingredient of everything we buy and try to keep everything as clean as possible.There are some ingredients we just don’t allow, like tree nuts, peanuts, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial colors or flavor, trans fat, and GMOs for instance. We keep our products at least 70% local and organic and avoid GMO when possible. I work closely with our staff dietitians when selecting items.

What are the benefits and difficulties of sourcing products and ingredients in the Midwest?

There is a lot of protein and dairy agriculture in the Midwest; We get our turkey from Michigan, chicken from Missouri, our drumsticks are from a small Amish farm in Indiana. We source our milk from Sassy Cow farm in Wisconsin.
There is a large variety of produce available during our growing season and there is an increasing amount of organic produce that is available in the Midwest. However, there are produce items we simply can’t source locally, like lemons or pineapple.

Sourcing the right quantity of local and small batch product can be difficult. It’s doable, it just takes a lot of work and communication with the vendor. Smaller producers need more time to prepare for a large order, like Country View Dairy in Iowa who we source our yogurt from, you can’t just let them know you need something for the next day, you need to give them a few weeks notice.

What are you most excited about for the upcoming school year?

Our newest waste reduction efforts. NSLP (National School Lunch Program) schools are now able to order in a new way that is specified by component, which will lead to less waste. The severs at those schools know what the kids like and don’t like, and allowing servers to control the orders on this level will help reduce their food waste and we will not be ordering food that isn’t consumed by students.

What is your favorite part of working at Gourmet Gorilla?
The people. I am lucky to work with a lot of dedicated people who work so hard to get healthy food out the door everyday.

*This blog post was brought to you by Davin Steiger, Client Account Representative

'Tis is the season of strawberries


We at Gourmet Gorilla are welcoming the warm weather and the bountiful fresh fruits and vegetables that arrive with summertime. A universal favorite among the GG team is strawberries... of course! Let me tell you, if you are a farmer’s market junkie like me, this is the best way to shop for some fresh strawberries and start a conversation with the vendors about where they are grown and how long the season will last. Of course, don’t forget to buy some extra boxes and consume them in various ways. And even if they start to get mushy and overripe sitting in your refrigerator, we can suggest some cool recipes before you make your way to the bin.
As Brad Leone, Bon Appetit’s Test Kitchen Manager rightly said, “Strawberries are like tomatoes for me; I’ll wait till they’re in season, then gorge myself like a brown bear before hibernation.” Amen to that!

Here are some easy recipes we’ve compiled as you make your way through the strawberry season: 

Strawberry Eton Mess


-    1 cup strawberries – half sliced, and half kept whole for assembling
-    1/3 cup sugar
-    1 1/2 cup heavy cream
-    1 box store bought meringues

This classic British dessert is easy to whip. When the party arrives - it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to assemble this! 
-    Toss half of sliced berries with sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set over a medium saucepan filled with 1" of barely simmering water. Let sit until berries are soft and juices have accumulated in bowl, 25–30 minutes. Let cool, then toss in remaining sliced berries.
-    Whisk cream in a medium bowl to soft peaks. Layer cream, meringues, then strawberry mixture in four 8-oz. glasses. Chill 20 minutes. Top with whole strawberries to serve.
Link to the original recipe

Strawberry Arugula walnut Salad


-    1 ½ cup fresh arugula
-    4 oz. cooked chicken breast. We recommend grilling and basting with honey Dijon mustard!
-    1 cup sliced strawberries
-    8 roasted walnuts
-    1 scallion, thinly sliced diagonal
-    Crushed red pepper flakes
Ps: This is a farmer’s market friendly recipe. Don’t forget to pick your favorite salad dressing for this recipe. 

Arrange arugula, cooked chicken breast, sliced strawberries, scallions, and walnut in your salad bowl. Gently sprinkle red pepper flakes if you are feeling bold. We also recommend dried oregano or fresh basil if you have some in your pantry. Drizzle your dressing and you are good to go with this easy recipe. 

Strawberry Lemonade



-    1 can sparkling water
-    5 sliced strawberries
-    4-5 mint leaves
-    2 lime slices
-    Ice

When the sun is up and above, this could be your go-to drink! This one is a kid friendly recipe. 
 Put 4 sliced strawberries and mint leaves in a glass and crush them until the fruit is broken up and the   leaves are bruised. Add ice to glass. Pour sparkling water over ice. Add lime slices and the last of the strawberry slices to the drink. Garnish with fresh mint and a strawberry.

   Link to original recipe

Happy Berrying!

This week's blog post is brought to you by Ritika Jagasia, Client Account Representative

Summer Feeding - School’s Out!

lunch bus.jpg

Temperatures nearing 90 degrees, kids playing in jungle gyms at parks where dozens more are lined up to receive today’s lunch- a chicken salad sandwich, fresh clementine, cucumber slices and ranch dip, and a cold carton of milk. This is summer for us here at Gourmet Gorilla.  Our drivers are getting ready to start out on their summer routes, our dietitians have been busy creating nutrient packed, delicious summer meals, and our kitchen staff is getting geared up to providing millions of meals to kids throughout Cook County.

The anticipation of our summer feeding programs is here and we are excited by the impact we can make each day. During the school year, Gourmet Gorilla provides meals to early childhood programs, elementary and high schools, and after school programs. When school is out during the summer months, our operations don’t stop, we continue to provide summer meals throughout the area to local libraries, YMCAs, and community centers, hoping to bring much needed access of a healthy meal to children who typically rely on these meals at their schools throughout the academic year. 

Nationally, 22 million children receive free or reduced meals through the National School Lunch Program, but in the summer months when school is out, only 3.9 million receive meals through the USDA summer food service program. That equates to only 1 out of 6 getting meals during summer break.*  At Gourmet Gorilla, we are working to help narrow this gap by improving access to meal sites, raising awareness, and nourishing kids through these months with fresh, healthy, great-tasting meals.

Many of the kids we serve in the summer rely on them to keep them fed and we believe that helping them receive the proper nutrition will help put them on the path to success.  Our goal is for our meals to be a way to teach them healthy habits now in order to build the groundwork for them to take care of themselves later.

If you’d like more information on where our meals are served, here’s a link to one our partners’, Greater Chicago Food Depository, that provides our meals at their Lunch Bus sites located throughout Cook County.
*Food Action Research Center

This week's blog post is brought to you by Danielle Hrzic, Chief Business Development Officer, Co Founder



The Secret to Good Cooking

The Secret to Good Cooking

The secret to good cooking comes from a well-stocked pantry and a kitchen full of essential equipment. As Peter Parker rightly said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”, we at Gourmet Gorilla have the most rewarding as well as challenging task of providing nutritious food to kids. With this power, we also have the responsibility of maintaining an industrial kitchen and keeping a special check on our gigantic equipment. Compared to this, maintaining tiny kitchen tools seems so much easier.

The Power of Superfoods

Superfoods. What is this term that is so hot in the nutrition world right now? The term “superfoods” does not have one singular definition. There are no standards created to qualify if the food is considered “super” or not. In fact, in some ways I believe all food is super! Even though the term “superfood” does not have a singular definition you will find that most foods that are described as a “super” are high in antioxidant, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Antioxidants and phytochemicals are both important to include in a well balanced diet. Antioxidants help protect the body from damaged molecules called free radicals. There are studies connecting free radicals to blood vessel disease and cancer. Antioxidants have been shown to help prevent that. Phytochemicals are a chemical compounds found in plants. There have been studies that have shown the these help fight atherosclerosis which is the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls.  So what are some examples of common “superfoods”? Take a look at the list below:

  1. Berries - Blueberries and strawberries are both great examples. They both contain high levels of phytochemicals called flavonoids which are important for cardiovascular health.

  2. Tomatoes - Tomatoes are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is helpful in removing the “bad” cholesterol which improves blood vessel health and can help prevent heart attacks. They are also high in potassium which is heart healthy!

  3. Dark Chocolate - Dark Chocolate that is made up of at least 60-70% cocoa contains flavonoids called polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Dark chocolate is high in fat so it is important to not over consume.

  4. Cinnamon - Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Cinnamon has also been shown to help with inflammation.

  5. Sweet Potatoes - Sweet potatoes are high in phytochemicals and vitamin A. Vitamin A in a vitamin that plays an important role in eye health.


How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts at Home - And Why You Should!

Growing your own sprouts at home is a fun, exciting and healthy project!

Broccoli sprouts are 10x – 100x higher in some cancer fighting compounds than the actual mature vegetable!

Sprouts are a tasty and nutritious addition to sandwiches, salads, or stirred into a bowl of soup. You may have noticed they can be a bit pricey at your local grocery store, but luckily they are very easy and affordable to grow at home. I chose to focus on growing Broccoli Sprouts because they are quite the super food! Broccoli sprouts are 10x-100x higher in some cancer fighting compounds than the actual mature vegetable. They are also packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants and a variety of vitamins and minerals. The process of growing your own sprouts involves soaking the broccoli seeds overnight and then keeping them in a dark and warm place while they germinate.The key to growing healthy sprouts is regular rinsing and draining which will prevent mold and fungi from growing.

What You Will Need:

Wide-mouth quart jar

Sprouting lid

Broccoli Seeds
Filtered Water

Instructions for Growing Broccoli Sprouts:

Add 2 tablespoons of broccoli sprouting seeds to a wide-mouthed quart jar.

Cover with a few inches of filtered water and cap with a sprouting lid (cheesecloth or mesh will work too!)

Store in a warm, dark place overnight, like a kitchen cabinet.

The next morning, drain the liquid off and rinse with fresh water. Be sure to drain all the water off.

Repeat this 3-4 times a day. Continue to store your seeds in a warm, dark place. After a few days, the seeds will start to break open and grow!

Eventually, the sprouts will be an inch or so long and have yellow leaves. Now you can move the sprouts out into the sunlight.

Continue to rinse them 3-4 times a day until the leaves are dark green. Now they are ready to eat!

This whole process will take about a week. Patience is key!

Once they are ready, replace the sprouting lid with a standard mason jar lid and store in the refrigerator.

Serve on top of salads, stirred into soups, or however strikes your fancy.

Growing your own sprouts at home is a fun, exciting and healthy project!

Sweet Potato Pie Oatmeal

To be the best, you need to train your best.  Training involves more than cardio and lifting weights, it also includes eating!  Olympic athletes exert massive amounts of energy, through many vigorous workouts, to stay fit for their big events.  To keep up and maintain energy needs, it is crucial to fuel the body with the right nutrition. Eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein 1-3 hours before your work out will give you the energy needed to complete an event at optimal levels.  Depending on the type of workout and person, those amounts may vary.

What do carbohydrates and protein do to the body? Carbohydrates give your blood glucose, which is converted into energy used to support the body’s functions and physical activity.  Protein helps repair and strengthen muscle tissue, which is extremely beneficial for Olympic athletes who are putting tons of stress on their bodies.

When deciding what to eat, look for slow digesting complex carbohydrates such as oats. A good recipe to incorporate oats and a protein is Sweet Potato Pie Oatmeal.  This recipe will give you the right fuel to start your engine!  Adding some sweet potato puree adds a ton of vitamins and minerals, including 100% of your daily vitamin A needs and a good source of Iron.  The nuts and milk you add in gives your body some protein to round out the combinational meal.  The recipe is simple and a great option for a pre-workout meal!


Two Servings:

  • 1 cup rolled oats

  • 1 3/4 cups milk

  • 1/2 cup sweet potato puree or 1 small potato

  • 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar, maple syrup, or other sweetener of choice

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 3 Tbsp walnuts or pecans



  1. Combine oats, milk and sweet potato puree onto a stove top

  2. Cook on medium heat until the oats are tender

  3. Stir in sweetener, cinnamon and nutmeg

  4. Add nuts to top it off and enjoy!


Olympian Tumeric, Ginger and Lemon Tea!

The 2018 Winter Olympics are off to a great start! How great is it to watch athletes who have trained years for this moment achieve their goal?! I’ve always seen Olympic Athletes as real life superheroes. So strong, so confident, so determined. There dedication to a healthy lifestyle has always been so motivating to me. This year I made it my goal to focus on finding ways to fuel like an Olympic Athlete during these winter games

How do I fuel like an Olympic Athlete? My latest obsession is ginger and turmeric. Both are great ingredients that you can fit into a lot of recipes (especially warm drinks). Both have been shown to have a great impact on the body, especially, for people who are active. They both fight inflammation, help keep your body regulated, and promote a healthy immune system. The perfect combination to bring home the gold.

Ginger is great for digestion. Ginger has been shown to help the stomach maintain its regular digestion rhythm. A great example of this is after a large meal ginger helps regulate high sugar levels that might disrupt digestion. Ginger is also great for bone health and for relieving joint pain (Great for an Athlete!). Ginger contains a compound called gingerols which have been directly associated with suppressing inflammation in the body.

Turmeric is also a great ingredient to aid in preventing inflammation and reducing pain. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has gained a lot of attention for its anti inflammatory properties. Turmeric has also been shown to improve liver function by stimulating the lymphatic system ensuring that toxins are removed efficiently.

Turmeric and Ginger are both ingredients that can help spice up any dish. Not only will adding they help take your food to the next level it will also help boost your health. Looking for something easy to make that contains both ginger and turmeric?! Check out this delicious Turmeric, Ginger, and Lemon tea. It’s a great night time drink to sip on which will help fight inflammation making sure you are ready for you workout the next day!

Turmeric, Lemon, and Ginger Tea


  • ¼ tsp turmeric

  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

  • ½ inch ginger root diced

  • Juice of ½ of a lemon


  1. Place turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ginger, and lemon in your favorite mug

  2. Boil 1 cup water

  3. Pour boiling water into mug and let sit for 10 minutes

  4. You can strain the tea or just drink with everything in it!

  5. Enjoy!

Visions of Sugarplums!

A candy cane at the holiday after school activity.  Hot chocolate with whipped cream after ice skating.  A plate of cookies that were supposed to be for Santa.   The holidays can turn into an IV sugar solution for kids!

Research suggests that babies are naturally inclined to crave sugar as soon as they exit the womb.  It's not a preference at this very early stage but rather a biological reality. To complicate matters, consuming sugar causes kids to crave even more of the sweet stuff.   This can be a recipe for disaster during the holidays!

US dietary guidelines recommend consuming less than 10% of daily calories from added sugars. On a 1,500-calorie diet, a level appropriate for moderately active 4- to 8-year-olds, just less than 10% would be about 33 grams of added sugars per day.

So what do we do here at Gourmet Gorilla?  Our goal is to limit the amount of added sugar, especially raw sugar.  Since we still want to make sure that the children we are serving enjoy the food & think it looks, smells, feels & tastes great, we use more of honey & fruit (applesauce/blueberries/bananas) for the sweetness in items like our muffins, granola bars, and quickbreads.  But we know that sugar does more than just sweeten the product.  It also plays an important role in the chemical properties of the baked good, and we have to keep a little in.  It locks in moisture which gives the muffins/quick breads a moist & soft texture, and helps with the structure & color.  Our ultimate goal is to limit the amount of added sugar but since we make all our baked goods in house, we can control where that sugar comes from and keep it to a minimum! 


Back to School

Back to School

Back to school is often a hectic season with alarms, running around finding clothes and books, finishing homework, and getting breakfast down (or on-the-go)!  How can I get a nutritious lunch prepared in the middle of this?  Here are a few tips that help me get things going and give the kids a healthy start

Farmers Market Week

There is no better way to start a brisk summer morning than a walk to the local farmer's market. The smell of fresh produce, freshly made bread, and the local food hot spots pulling you in. To celebrate these wonderful markets a whole week has been dedicated to them. August 6th - August 12th is National Farmers Market Week.

Farmers markets date all the way back to 1730 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When the city was first built the city planners designated a 120 square foot lot in the middle of the town as the “Lancaster Central Market.” Year after year, the market grew. Evidence shows that at one point there may have been as many as 400 vendors! If you visit Lancaster today you may still hear the phrase, “Meet me at the Market.”

After the market was built in Lancaster the citizens saw how important it was for day to day life. The markets were such a staple that from 1818 until after World War 1 several “curb markets” sprung up around the town of Lancaster. Local farmers and merchants would attend these “curb markets” and sell their goods out of wagons.

Today farmers markets are just as popular as they were in in the 1800s. There are more than 8,000 farmers markets open throughout the United States! Farmers markets today may look a little different, however, they are still providing fresh produce, meat, and locally made items to their communities.

Looking for a local farmer's market to check out during National Farmers Market Week? Find a market near you listed below.

 - Samantha Sullivan, RDN, LDN



Loyola University Chicago Farmers Market - 6550 N. Sheridan Rd. 3 - 7 pm



Lincoln Square Market; 2301 W. Leland Ave. 7am - 1 pm



Ravenswood Farmers Market; 4900 N. Damen Ave. 4-8 pm



Hyde Park Farmers Market; 1520 53rd st. 7 am - 2 pm



IMAN Fresh Beats and Eats Farmers Market; 2744 W. 63rd St. 2 - 6 pm



Englewood/Anchor House Market; 76th St. & Racine Ave. 10 am - 2 pm



Pilsen Community Market; 1800 S. Halsted St. 9 am - 2 pm


Food Security

A little over 800 miles from the North Pole on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, lies a treasure trove nearly 400 feet deep in a mountain. This mountain, known to locals as Platåberget, houses 933,304 samples of seeds from around the world, all in an effort to ensure the viability of humankind's food supply against crop extinction.

When thinking of extinction, many conjure images of dinosaurs and mammoths, creatures long gone as well as those whose numbers are dwindling in today's world, such as Giant Pandas and Polar Bears. But crop species are just as vulnerable, perhaps even more so, as something as simply as power loss in a refrigerated facility containing the few remaining seeds of one variety could spell the end for that crop.

The Svalbard Global Seed vault seeks to combat this risk. The vault has been built to withstand disasters both natural and man made, to ensure the survival of our planet's varied food supply. Thanks to the natural insulation of the mountain, in addition to the permafrost found within the Arctic Circle, the temperature of the vault remains at -18 degrees celsius, and will remain at that chilly temperature even in the event of power failure, ensuring the survival of seeds for potentially thousands of years.

Imagine the seed vault as a backup drive on a computer, if the unthinkable were to happen, and your data was lost, you could simply redownload the data from that backup drive. The vault works in a similar manner, by providing copies of seeds. There are facilities around the world known as genebanks that house seeds for breeders and researchers alike, but these facilities often lack the funding and capabilities to store seeds in the optimal environment, and they are vulnerable to seed lost. Svalbard serves as insurance, in the event of the worst case scenario, crop diversity will be ensured and food security will be maintained.

This modern day agricultural Library of Alexandria will house the world’s largest collection of seeds, with a capacity of 2.25 billion seeds. These seeds are brought to vault from all across the globe, from rare crops to popular varieties, all with one distinct commonality: they makeup the history of humanity's food supply, and Svalbard aims to be the keeper of that history for centuries to come.

For more information on the Svalbard Seed Vault please visit:

- Alyssa Black, Customer Service Specialist

What’s in Season: Tomatoes, Basil and Peppers

We’re in the dog days of summer here in Chicago, and even with the occasional cold front, it is warm enough to produce classic fruit/vegetables favorites in your own backyard. Don’t have a green thumb? Here are a few tips to grow tomatoes, basil and peppers that make the process a little easier.

No edible garden is complete without tomatoes. They grow best between June and October and require roughly 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day, so make sure to plant in optimal sun. Tomatoes can be directly seeded into the soil or transplanted depending on the gardener’s preference. Most tomato varieties like to grow tall rather than bushy, so trellising, staking or caging is almost always required. These different methods provide support to the plant as they grow upward, producing more and more fruit. While red tomatoes are fan favorites, tomatoes come in every color imaginable and add color to the garden.

Basil, a warm weather crop, goes as well with tomatoes in the garden as it does on the plate. These plants grow optimally between 80- to 90-degree weather and prefer rich, well-drained soil. When harvesting basil, gardeners can pinch single leaves from various parts of the plant, allowing time for it to recover and produce new leaves. Whether it's caprese salads, or pesto, basil always finds a way to spice up any meal it makes an appearance in.

While peppers vary from sweet and crisp to spicy and tear-inducing, they all prefer long, warm growing seasons. In Illinois, the season begins early July when the temperatures are consistently hot. Much like tomatoes, peppers are large fruits that sometimes make it difficult for the plant to support without additional stakes or cages. Staking with bamboo or a wire cage when the plant gets its first fruit will help the plant produce large quantities, without “breaking its back.”

This September Gourmet Gorilla will feature local bell peppers for “Harvest of the Month.” Look out for these fruits and vegetables on our menu!

-Johnny Sudekum, Sourcing and Customer Service Specialist


Happy 4th!

Celebrate with this jammy mash-up of berries, yogurt and cardamom, making these pops just rich enough and irresistible for the kids!    

2/3 cups of thinly sliced strawberries
2/3 cup of blackberries
2/3 cup of blueberries
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp of cane sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt (or any flavor!)

Special Equipment
Ten 3 oz ice pop molds and sticks

Combine strawberries, blueberries and blackberries with cardamom and sugar in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring regularly for 5-7 minutes, until berries are soft but not falling apart. Remove from heat and let cool and blend in yogurt using in a hand mixer.  Carefully pour mixture into a pitcher.  Pour mix into molds, helping some of the berries along with a spoon so they're evenly distributed.  Freeze at least 4 hours (insert sticks when partially frozen) and up to 1 month.


Spinach & Strawberries!

Gourmet Gorilla partnered with the Illinois Farm to School last week at the annual summer kickoff event for our summer food program, serving up Spinach & Strawberry salads to all the kids that came out to enjoy a beautiful day at Horner Park in Chicago. We were so excited to see them all enjoying this nutrient packed lunch filled with iron and vitamin C! Spinach is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and iron. Eating spinach helps maintain healthy skin, hair, and strong bones! It is also one of the best sources for potassium & magnesium which are both extremely important electrolytes in maintaining human health. Spinach has twice the amount of potassium as a banana!  

Throughout the year, Gourmet Gorilla participates in the Harvest of the Month, which is a national farm to school program.  Harvest of the Month demonstrates our commitment to providing more locally sourced produce to our schools while teaching students about healthy eating, nutrition, and agriculture.  You'll find the calendar of fruits & veggie below, be sure to look for them on our menus in the months to come!