Now, McLeish and Pflueger put aside their bumps and digs to serve up Sourced Cuisine, a gourmet meal delivery service prepared with locally sourced and freshly picked organic produce.
For the last seven weeks, McLeish and Pflueger have been delivering boxes of 10 freshly prepared vegan items of starters, entrees and desserts from Dana Point to Huntington Beach for $145, including delivery.
“I wasn’t finding great vegetarian restaurants out there using the same exactitude in preparation and level of care that these great raw and organic vegetables deserve,” said Pflueger. “We want to make the vegetable the star, instead of an afterthought.”
McLeish, a 13-year publicist, has become a self-taught and admittedly “self-proclaimed” expert about the biochemical benefits of eating freshly picked, organic food. For the past three years, she’s studied nutrition and the effect food has on the body. Along the way, she’s become a private chef, preparing raw-vegan and vegan meals for clients concerned about their health.
Pflueger, an executive chef, trained in classical French cuisine at two Michelin three-star restaurants in France. He’s carved a professional life from top chef positions at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel and the Russian Tea Room in New York City to the Montage resort in his hometown.
In Kauai, where he had opened a restaurant with his brother, Pflueger was jolted into healthy eating through a health scare. A lump on his neck proved cancerous. After researching the pros and cons of chemotherapy and radiation and talking with friends undergoing the treatments and doing well, and even at their insistence, he decided to pass.
“The more I read and the more I learned, the typical treatment for cancer didn’t resound with me,” he said. “Everybody told me I was crazy but I became less and less comfortable with it.”
He went exclusively vegan, stopped drinking alcohol and started juicing. Now, three years later, there’s no turning back. “I immediately felt the benefits,” he said.
When the two say “fresh-picked” they mean by McLeish herself. Her weekends start with getting dirty up to her elbows, foraging from boxes of just-picked fruit and vegetables. “I’m digging through those boxes and getting dirt on my nose from burying my face to get the scent,” she said.
McLeish got the taste and a nose for farm-fresh foods from promoting, delivering and preparing fresh produce from Alegria Farm, a hydroponic farm originally located in Laguna Canyon.
“Now I know how a tomato is supposed to taste,” she said. “I’ve been completely spoiled. I can tell what’s fresh and what’s not.”
Take this week’s menu: Wild mushroom ceviche; wild rice with sundried cranberries, apricots and toasted pecans; roasted kabucha squash tatertots; Swiss chard black bean burritos and guava coconut cream pie. Who said eating healthy (i.e., well) had to be boring? The food is prepared in a South Laguna commercial kitchen, said Pflueger.
McLeish’s favorite digs these days is Manaserro farm and produce stand at Irvine Valley College. Other farms she frequents are South Coast Farm in San Juan Capistrano, Smith Farm and OC Produce in Irvine, and Alegria Farm at the Great Park.
“We just felt the local produce was a little under-utilized and we wanted to showcase it,” said Pflueger.
The benefits of Sourced Cuisine, said Kerri Cacciata, chef-in-residence at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, is three-fold. “They’re helping to support the local farm economy,” she said. “They’re also helping reduce emissions and waste by sourcing locally and seasonally so things don’t have to be shipped across the world. And then with people eating organically and with the seasons, they’re cutting out GMO’s and processed food and improving health.”
Penny Steris, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for the last four years, signed up for Sourced Cuisine the first week. “It all has helped me feel stronger; it’s strengthened my immune system. I can feel a difference.”
There’s enough in the box, she said, for a full week. “So far, the jicama taco was the one that knocked my socks off,” she said. “And to get a hug and a kiss when it’s delivered!”