By Peter Darrow
I haven’t always been a cook, a healthy eater, a restaurant owner, or even involved in the health and restaurant worlds. In fact, opening Darrow’s Farm Fresh, my restaurant right off Union Square in NYC, has been an amazing (albeit short) journey for me — which has led to amazing experiences. We are the first and only restaurant in NYC with cold-pressed juice ON TAP — and we are working every day to make health food accessible, no matter your lifestyle or time constraints.
I grew up in New York City, attending the Browning School, before heading off to St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH, and eventually the University of Miami for undergrad. Roughly 4 years ago, both my father and mother were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of each other. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; my father was diagnosed with myeloma cancer. During this time, I became a vegan… not for moral reasons, but general health reasons. I became very passionate about food, and much more aware of what I was consuming. As someone who always ate red meat and dairy, this was not an easy transition. I wasn’t getting enough protein, and was not planning my meals throughout the day properly.
Fast-forward a few years. I was in business school at Babson College studying entrepreneurship, when unfortunately my father (age 62) passed away. He was an extremely healthy and fit individual; he participated in numerous triathlon competitions and rowing races. I was extremely saddened by his death, and trying to figure out what I could do to honor him? I remember my father always saying to me, “Peter, you will only be successful in things which you are passionate for.” I quickly realized that I am deeply passionate about helping people, and food is the really the only way I know how. I always tell people that I wish I knew an easier way, such as selling remote controls or paper towels. But I recognize how passionate people are about food. This excites me, and I want to be a part of that conversation.
So with zero restaurant experience, I decided to open a restaurant! I hired a consultant to help me with the project, and found a beautiful location right in the Union Square area. While I am not a chef, I created very strict parameters that the menu had to meet. I had my own personal nutritionist, Julie Starr, work in tandem with our chef to create nutritionally-balanced, nutrient-rich food. We did create a couple “rules”: 1) Absolutely no fryers, 2) No use of butter to cook with, ONLY olive oil or coconut oil (and as little as possible!), 3) Animal proteins can be added into dishes, but not the focus; vegetable heavy, and 4) Source as much from the local Union Square Farmers’ Market (Greenmarket) as possible. With these goals in mind, we set about creating a menu that was focused on “filling people up, but not making them feel sluggish after eating it.” At its core concept, we created a series of “Functional Plates” — “The Protein Plate,” “Stress Relief Plate,” and “Calorie Burn Plate” — all of which are designed to provide a specific health benefit.
Lastly, we also developed one final “rule”: banned words. Every staff member and all of our marketing material is banned from using the words “vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, raw, live, soy.” No offense to any of those communities, but we don’t believe in using labels or categorizing people. Rather, we want the conversation to be focused on clean, unprocessed, whole food. That is the essence of Darrow’s Farm Fresh.
My opinion is that eating out in New York shouldn’t be so stressful; that you should be able to take your boyfriend, girlfriend, or friends out to eat somewhere and not be stressed or worried about what the other person will be able to order. Darrow’s is about bringing people together and building bridges, not walls. We want to give customers lots of options. I’ve also learned the hard way that eating is a very personal and emotional choice; you cannot piss someone off more quickly than telling them what they “should” or “should not” be eating. It’s like religion, or politics. It’s a very personal choice. And we understand!
Maybe it’s because I don’t come from the restaurant world? But in all honesty, this is very natural to me… I feel this is the way everyone should be eating. Our philosophy is simple: Empowering people’s lives through food. I hope you get the chance to come in and check out our establishment – we would love to have you.
Born and raised in New York City, Peter Darrow graduated from the University of Miami with a B.A. in psychology, focusing on the importance of health and nutrition. He began his career in public relations and marketing, working at Edelman and Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness before pursuing his MBA in entrepreneurship at Babson College. Moved by his father’s death, Peter founded “Darrow’s. Farm Fresh.” When he is not working with his team to provide New Yorkers with better alternatives, you can find him playing baseball or competing in chess.