This year, Factor 75 customers are in for a treat! With a newly renovated and expanded kitchen facility and renowned Executive Chef, Pete Balodimas, joining the team from the popular Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You (LEYE), exciting new menu options are on the horizon.
To learn more about our quality-first culinary process and what new menu offerings customers can expect in 2019, we caught up with Chef Pete to provide a sneak peek behind the kitchen curtain.
Q: Provide a summary of your professional background and education in the culinary arts.
A: I started cooking at a very young age while my parents were building their business and my grandparents on my father’s side lived with us. Then, in high school, I scored my first real restaurant job in the summer months working in the city [Chicago] at Heaven on Seven, where I fell in love with the industry!
I went on to pursue my culinary degree at Kendall College. After culinary school, I landed a sous chef job at a high-end seafood restaurant, which is where my love of seafood started.
After nearly six years working solely with seafood, I landed a new role at Spiaggia, Chicago’s only 4-star Italian restaurant, where I continued to hone my culinary skills and technique. It was here that I worked with some of the highest quality ingredients available. After my time with Spiaggia, I worked as a corporate chef running multiple restaurants for food-focused companies like Fox Restaurant Concepts, Garces Restaurant Group and LEYE.
Q: In your opinion, how has your background helped evolve the menu?
A: With my background at Spiaggia, I learned that good enough isn’t good enough. Always push yourself and staff to be better, hold your vendors to higher standards, and treat the ingredients with respect. If you follow all three of these philosophies, you’ll greatly increase the odds of creating amazing food and experiences.
Q: In your opinion, what separates Factor 75 menu from other meal delivery services?
A: The Factor 75 team is second to none! We continually strive to improve our product, recipes and production standards. We constantly monitor our customer feedback and incorporate changes in real-time, which allows us to meet and exceed customer expectations. The customer always comes first, and our entire team always emphasizes that.
Q: You work extensively with our in-house dietitian team to strike the perfect balance between taste and nutrition. Can you please provide insight into how that process works?
A: First, it starts with inspiration that comes from a variety of places! It could be a dish I discovered while dining out, researching food publications or creating a healthier version of a family favorite. In fact, oftentimes our inspiration will come from a recipe that one of our customers explicitly requested!
Then, we work vigorously to source the product using the highest quality specs. If we can’t, we won’t add it to the menu since it does not meet our ingredient standards. Quality always comes first.
We then optimize the appearance, taste and nutrients in each recipe with the help of our team of in-house dietitians. Once approved we go through a final audit of the ingredients and nutrition, then stage the meal for production.
Q: Where did your nickname “Polenta Pete” originate?
A: Our VP of Operations [Matt Wilkinson] gave me that nickname. One of the first dishes I created at Factor 75 was a chicken cacciatore recipe served with parmesan polenta. When we were doing the tasting he was like, “What is this – it’s delicious!” I told him it was polenta, and he started calling me “Polenta Pete.” Now even the President & CEO [Mike Apostal] of the company calls me that.
Q: What’s your favorite Factor 75 meal, and why?
A: The taco bowl! Well, this is actually my wife’s favorite, so it has become mine as well! It’s also one of our most popular dishes, and we’ve created numerous other recipes based off the success of this dish (e.g., vegetarian taco bowl, keto-poblano bowl, beef & zucchini bowl) and some dishes coming soon (e.g., tostada bake, vegetarian tostada bake and queso fundito bowl).
Q: What exciting new additions to the menu can Factor 75 customers expect in 2019?
Q: What’s the plan around offering new vegetarian, paleo and keto dishes?
A: For vegetarian dishes, we have a series of new recipes coming to the menu in 2019! For paleo and keto meals, our goal is to offer at least one new option for each diet every week!