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Photos courtesy of Paleo With Love
Photos courtesy of Paleo With Love

Chef, trainer and Astoria resident Ryan Brown not only gives CrossFit members a workout of the day, but he also serves them a meal of the day.

Brown, who has a background as a professional chef and currently works as a coach at CrossFit Dynamix (36-5 20th Ave., Astoria), combined his two careers when he started Paleo With Love, a home-cooked meal delivery company, last year. The concept started in a gym where Brown was working, and has expanded mostly through word of mouth in the CrossFit community from Astoria’s Dynamix to five gyms in three boroughs.

Meals come in containers with the company’s signature logo of two nuzzling bears on the front. His dishes like Kona pulled pork with roasted squash and kale tomatillo, Italian squash spaghetti bake and blueberry “cheesecake” are all made without sugar, dairy, beans or grains, which are prohibited on a paleo diet.

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The paleo diet is pre-agricultural, meaning it emphasizes healthy meats, fruits, vegetables and fats. No processed foods are allowed either.

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Because of these restrictions, Brown’s meals are missing a lot of ingredients people love — but Brown said people crave his food and he has built a loyal following.

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“I pay attention to the quality of the batches [I cook],” Brown said. “It’s not just throwing a carb, a fat and protein in the box.”

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Sticking to a paleo diet and doing CrossFit helped Brown transform his own life when he was working as a chef in Florida. At about 28, he was out of shape and overweight.

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“People don’t trust a skinny chef,” Brown said.

A doctor told him he had 90 days to make a change, or he’d need to go on medication. Within a month of doing CrossFit and eating on a paleo diet, Brown lost 20 pounds.

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When he returned to the doctor, his cholesterol had gone down and his triglycerides had increased. His doctor told him he could be in a commercial on how to make a healthy change.

Once he moved to New York with his wife, he worked at The Capital Grille on Wall Street and the now defunct Ouest. There, the long hours of working took a toll on his health. Eventually, he quit his job, and put his CrossFit training certification to use, coaching at a gym in Brooklyn.

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Given his background, he was able to offer nutrition counseling to his clients. At home, Brown was still cooking. He made creative, tasty recipes even within the limits of the paleo diet.

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He tested recipes on his fellow coaches, who started paying him to bring them home-cooked, paleo lunches. Then members caught on and wanted to try, too. From there, the idea behind Paleo With Love was born.

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In August 2016, he gauged interested from CrossFit members in his network and decided to start the business. With the help of a coworker, he created a website, then sent an email with a menu and started taking orders in January 2017.

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He didn’t have the capital to open a brick-and-mortar storefront, so he uses a shared kitchen at an entrepreneur space in Long Island City, which also offers counseling and resources to small businesses. There, he cooks twice a week with the help of up to three staff members, and fulfills orders the same day so the food is fresh. Brown delivers some meals himself on his way home, and delivery services take care of the rest.

Brown uses ingredients from local providers and he uses organic produce and natural, antibiotic-free, grass-fed meats.

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Clients can sign up for 18 meals a month for $200, and individual meals cost $10 to $13, around the same price as lunch in Manhattan, Brown said.

The menu changes twice a week. In March, some of the options were Tika honey chicken with red kale and roasted vegetables; beef chili with cashews and spinach and sweet potato; and chicken mushroom cauliflower risotto with pancetta and sun-dried tomatoes.

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The inspiration for meals comes from ingredients that are in season, farmers markets and client feedback, Brown said.

The food is also available in five gyms: CrossFit Dynamix, CrossFit Bell, CrossFit 718, CrossFit SoBro and CrossFit Queens. Brown said the business now has 250 clients, which is up 50 percent from last year. He said new customers are joining weekly. At first, most of his clients came from the gyms, but now half are home delivery clients.

He said positive client feedback keeps him going. One woman said she doesn’t have to cook anymore, and can spend more time with kids. Another client claimed they tried to make some of his dishes, but they didn’t come out as well as Brown’s.

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Brown wants to continue to be a part of the community and grow by 30 percent in the next year. His long-term goal is to open a physical location with show kitchen, classes and a hot bar to take out food.

For now, he said one of his main challenges are growing pains. The more the business expands, the more costs there are, and the more there is to do. Brown said it was big risk to take this on 100 percent.

“There’s a fear of not being able to make it,” Brown said. “But helping others drives me.”

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