The Chons, Beauchamps and Closes are all friends and all parents of young children. They also share an idea — that healthy eating habits should be established early in kids.
The three couples wanted to pass that philosophy to others, so they opened Love & Puree, a new kitchen in Costa Mesa that specializes in fresh, blended organic baby and toddler food.
The idea came about during a ride back from a trip when Allison Beauchamp was complaining to her husband, Brady, and friends Jeff and Melissa Chon that she had to get home to make food for her 8-month-old daughter, Logan. How great it would be, she said, if a service were available that provided healthy, fresh organic food for little ones.
"I was working on incorporating new flavors and textures into her purees," Beauchamp said. "Because I wanted to give her a variety each day, I was prepping at least three different meals at a time to last for the week, and felt like I was drowning in it."
A year and six months later, the Chons and Beauchamps, both of Costa Mesa, and Danielle and Mike Close of Corona del Mar turned their passion for their own children's nutrition into a business meant to be affordable and accessible to every family.
Love & Puree's grand-opening celebration was April 28 at 333 E. 17th St.
The three couples are financial partners in the establishment, and all pitch in for kitchen duties.
"It's amazing how much good food can change health," said Jeff Chon, an area restaurateur who owns Tabu Shabu, Oak & Coal, the Alley and the Wayfarer. "Why wouldn't we do this for our kids … apply the same convenience level and affordability compared to … store-bought low-grade food similar to fast food?
"We teamed up with a panel of experienced nutritionists and dietitians and created a menu that tastes good, is loved by babies and exemplifies the highest-quality child nutritional standards. We want to create more than just a store, we want to create a culture of being a conscious parent."
A jar of Love & Puree food costs $6 to $8, compared with about $2 for brands of organic baby food typically found in supermarkets. But that's "comparing apples to oranges," Chon said.
Nutritionist Connie Rutledge consulted with the partners about the value of organic, non-GMO (non-genetically modified) foods prepared in small batches.
"Nutrient density of small-batch recipes is superior nutrition to what you get from an industrial batch," Rutledge said.
She also emphasized the importance of incorporating high-quality fats into a child's diet, such as ghee (a class of clarified butter) and bone broth.
Melissa Mathes, a registered dietitian and pediatric nutritionist with a master's degree in public health, said she agrees that it's important to avoid processed compounds in baby food. She said a baby's digestive tract is fragile and that it's important to adjust food content to the appropriate stage of gastrointestinal maturity.
"It's not just about the preservatives; consumers and parents should also be concerned about pesticides and fertilizers used to grow the produce and grains in the baby food," Mathes said. "Choose organic; at least you will know there aren't any chemicals or pesticides used in the food. Organic foods generally don't have preservatives or food dyes."
The bottom line, according to Chon — not only for babies but for everyone — is to consume things that spoil faster.
"Anything that doesn't spoil isn't good for you," he said. "When comparing similar food items, organic breaks down 10 times faster or spoils much faster because it doesn't have chemicals."
At Love & Puree, ingredients such as spinach, mango, pear and chia seeds can be found in one blend.
For opinionated toddlers, the menu sneaks vegetables into chicken meatballs or macaroni and cheese.
Since the food has a shelf life of only 48 hours, excess product is donated to the Costa Mesa chapter of Fristers, a charity for teenage parents.