With a salad designed for cancer awareness, Chop’t
makes caring delicious and healthy
With 21 outlets and 12 years in business, Chop’t is a pioneer of the salad-as-fast-food concept. In October 2013, the company is partnering with Ralph Lauren to create a salad in support of the Pink Pony cancer initiative. We talked with founders Tony Shure and Colin McCabe to learn more.
Ralph Lauren: Tell me how you guys got involved with Pink Pony.
Tony Shure: We were trying to figure out how to take the generosity of Chop’t and bring it to the next level, and one of the things we wanted to do was start identifying charities in health, wellness and food and give back a little bit. When we first started the company, we were trying to recruit people to eat healthy, and now here we are, [almost] 13 years later, and we think we can have a dramatic impact on the community. So one of those things we’re talking about with Pink Pony is the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention in Harlem, bringing that goal to Harlem, where people were not getting diagnosed. That’s kind of like what we want to do with food and fast food—make the landscape better and give back a bit.
And what other initiatives have you been involved with?
Tony: We try to do things seasonally, so during Mardi Gras in 2012, we gave to the St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans [and] we ran a New Orleans salad, the New Orleans Cobb, that had ingredients authentic to the area—Tasso ham and a really great dressing. In October 2012, we did Pink Pony, and we hope to be donating to a bigger and bigger number of initiatives every year.
Colin McCabe: We’ve been working with a program called Wellness in the Schools, a nonprofit here in New York City. Tony and I went to listen to Michelle Obama at the White House for a thing called Chefs Move to Schools, and we do a lot of work with Wellness in the Schools, which means we go into schools and we work with the chefs in the kitchens in order to provide better food for kids who don’t have an opportunity to eat better or have a knowledge of food. We’re trying to get them young.
Tony: In the public school system of New York, kids get most of their [daily] nutrition at school, and sometimes they’re just eating chicken fingers and Doritos. The ultimate goal is to one day get Chop’t salad bars in the schools, because children really respond to crunchy vegetables dipped in tasty sauce. So if we can get kids to swap out chicken fingers for broccoli heads, it says something. The expectation that a kid can eat a bag of Doritos and a six-piece McNuggets then go sit still and learn and absorb information is unrealistic.
One school in particular that we are sponsoring now, PS 175, they’ve taken an empty lot across the street, which was actually a crack den in the opening scene of New Jack City, and made it into an organic garden. The kids go and help out and volunteer in the garden then are led back into the lunch cafeteria. They’re told the vegetables that they grew are in the salad bar, and they have a blast with it. You can see the need, [and] it’s nice to feel the need and know they’re not just eating hamburgers.
Pretty in...: The Chop't Pink Goddess salad
How many outlets do you have now?
Colin: We currently have 21 outlets open. We are in NYC, DC and the suburbs of each. Right now, we are focused on these areas, but since we started in 2001, we have always had a goal of having Chop’t across the country.
Tony: We started this whole salad movement [almost] 13 years ago, and we consider ourselves the leaders of it. We want to be everywhere, ultimately. We want to have salad drive-throughs; we want to penetrate into American culture.
“If we can get kids to swap out chicken fingers for broccoli heads, it says something.”
How do you create your salad recipes?
Tony: Colin and I work with Catherine Lederer, who runs our food and beverage [division], and a chef, Aneesha Hargrave, and we try to come up with seasonal salads every 60 days. We come up with three: One of them is vegetarian, one is intensely cravable and another one [transports you]. Between that, we will do things we call super-seasonal—with ramps, for example, or we did scapes in the past. [We do] either a salad or a dressing around them. And some of those super-seasonals we are going to tie to a philanthropic cause.
So what is in the Pink Pony Salad?
Colin: It’s called the Pink Goddess Salad. It’s romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, pickled red onions, black beans, cotija cheese, avocado and the Mexican goddess dressing. The dressing is pureed avocado, jalapeño, tomatillo and vinegar. This dressing was in a previous special, and we took it off. Customers were emailing us all day, every day, protesting and demanding this back. So that to us meant that it was an intensely cravable dressing and it would be perfect to bring it back for the Pink Pony charity. A restaurant has to have that. They need to be living, breathing things.
Are there days you get sick of looking at salad and just want a slice of pizza?
Tony: We’re New Yorkers—we love a slice! Actually, all our salads can be made into sandwiches, so on those days, I just bite into a Chop’t sandwich.
- Photographs courtesy of Chop’t
- Visit Choptsalad.com to find a local restaurant & learn more