Organic restaurant taps natural tre 

Organic restaurant taps natural tre

GROSSE POINTE PARK -- Michele Rastelli became a vegetarian at 14 and decided she wanted to run a restaurant when she was 18. Now her lifestyle and occupation choices have turned into a rapidly growing business as a supplier of prepared organic dishes.
Rastelli. is the owner and chef of Moo Moo's Organic Bistro. a restaurant that has attracted a loyal clientele mostly by word of mouth to a small storefront near the Detroit border. Roasted cashew stir-fry with whole wheat linguine and roasted sweet potato wild rice balls are the most popular items on a full menu with prices under $8.
Unlike most restaurants. Moo Moo's generates 85 percent of sales from wholesale deliveries to almost two dozen food stores in Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Ken Kobylas. executive chef for Nino Salvaggio's in St. Clair Shores. said his store sells five times as many Moo Moo's products as it did a year ago.
"People love them." Kobylas said. "They're fresh. they look good and they're good for you. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that."
Rastelli is tapping into a powerful national trend. According to SPINS. a market research and consulting firm for the natural products industry. sales of organic items are up 29 percent from last year to $178 million.
Nino Salvaggio's shoppers are showing more interest in organic products. from fresh produce to finished products like chips. "People are more conscious of what they're eating. That's part of Moo Moo's success." Kobylas said.
"I wanted to bring the option here to Michigan. If I'm into it. probably a lot of other people are too." she said. "I saw a real lack of something and I wanted to jump in before somebody else did."
She experimented with her own recipes while taking courses in nutrition. fine arts and business at Wayne State University. Because she wasn't sure there was enough support for an organic restaurant. she rented a kitchen and started selling directly to stores in August 2004. She moved to her current storefront a few months later and then opened a small restaurant with a few tables after people asked about takeout orders.


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