How Should Humans Eat?

Last week, I spent three days visiting my youngest daughter, Sophia, who is a second-year student at The New School/Eugene Lang College in New York City. Because she could not come home for Thanksgiving/Hanukkah this year due to her work schedule, I thought I would go visit her.

After I arrived, we started to talk about food and where we would eat lunch. The first thing I said to her was: “I want to go to this Hu Kitchen that I keep seeing on your debit card statement!” I wrongly assumed it was a Chinese restaurant, and for the life of me, I could not figure out why she was going there so often.

Then she started telling me that with her gluten and soy food allergies she found Hu’s food suits her perfectly. And “Hu” is not a Chinese name–it is short for “Human.” Aah, now I’m getting the picture!

So, Hu Kitchen is really “Human Kitchen,” serving healthy–and tasty–foods for humans.

And the place is small, but dazzling.

We walked up to the first refrigerated counter (which looks like a deli case in a Whole Foods), and a young man came up to help us. I could tell he was in management just by what he was wearing and his demeanor. He told me his name was Andrew.

As he was helping me fill up a plate with a variety of delicious and gluten-free fruit and vegetables, I asked him about his background. He got his bachelor’s degree from a college in Ohio, then got his master’s in management from the Cornell University School of Hospitality in Ithaca, New York. He told me that at Hu Kitchen he was “living the dream.” And you could tell that he loves his job by the way he interacted with all the customers and employees.

I asked him how many Hu Kitchens there were. He told me, “one for now,” but they are in discussions to add a few more around New York City.

If you’ve ever been to NYC, then you know that real estate is super expensive. So stores, restaurants, and shops are all very small and make efficient use of their space. Vertical displays up to the ceiling are normal. And it is not unusual for multiple locations of a popular eatery to be every few blocks, as “location, location, location” is everything in such a densely populated city.

But I foresee that the Hu Kitchen concept will be popping up in other places besides New York City. Eateries that focus on plant-based foods, gluten-free options, and freshly made take-out (or dine-in) will soon be the norm in EVERY city.

For example, right here in Southern California, a new chain is growing like wildfire: Veggie Grill. Having started only a few years ago, there are now 15 Southern California locations, plus a few more in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.

And just look at the growth the Chipotle restaurant chain has experienced. What do they focus on? Local. Organic. Transparent.

Thinking back on my daughter’s debit card statement and my assumption about her food choices, I realized that many times our millennial children can teach us about making healthy choices. We just have to be ready–and willing–to listen.

I’m already wondering what I may learn from my daughter the next time we’re together.

My daughter Sophia and me at Thanksgiving dinner in New York City.