If you work in the Cummings Center, you may have come across Helen Allard. The owner of WholeMade Kitchen in Beverly can sometimes be found handing out samples of her comforting, flavorful bone broth, simmered for up to 24 hours to release all the good nutrients, to workers and passersby in the lobbies.
It’s advertising, of course, but it’s also her way of being hospitable while looking after the local community. As a chill creeps into the air, a Broth Bar—instead of coffee or tea—will be a part of her storefront, with Himalayan Pink salt offered on the side to taste. “It’s lovely to get a cup of bone broth when it’s cold outside,” Allard says. “We want people to stop in, sip, and get some extra love in their lives.”
In WholeMade’s tiny storefront, the staff is busily removing racks of roasted chickens and straining vats of bone broth. In late September, Allard’s kitchen was cranking out 40 gallons a week of the soothing brew—and it’s still not enough. “We have doubled production each week for the last three weeks and have still been selling out,” says Allard. That’s good news for WholeMade Kitchen, which opened in the former Chicken and the Eggplant space this spring offering gluten-free meals inspired by the paleo diet or the trendy Whole30 food plan for grab-and-go or home delivery.
The idea behind the paleo diet, named for the Paleolithic era (dating from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago), is to consume only foods that predate formal farming. So lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are okay, but dairy products, legumes, and grains are forbidden. Whole30 is a 30-day elimination diet to identify foods that may have a negative impact on your health.
Allard herself started examining what she eats eight years ago. Thanks to an unhealthy relationship with food developed over years in college competing as a lightweight rower, where the emphasis was on being as thin as possible, by the time she was in her 30s, the native Australian had developed a long list of gastrointestinal health issues. “I never learned to cook as a kid, then participated in a sport that abhorred any kind of food,” Allard says. But a single meeting with a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner turned all that around. “She tipped what I thought a human body needed on its head,” Allard recalls. “Before that, I never realized how much what I was eating affected [my digestive health].”
Inspired by this meeting, Allard changed the way her whole family ate—and saw changes in her own health and that of her young family as well. Her son, who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, started kindergarten requiring a number of special services. But by the time he entered first grade, after a year on a paleo-inspired diet, many of those services were no longer necessary, and now at 11 years old he is thriving in school and socially as well. “You change what you put into your body and it can literally change who you are,” Allard says, noting that the experience led her to get her own Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certification and start coaching other families on making healthier choices.
The trouble is, healthier choices take time, which her clients were short on. For example, bone broth needs to simmer for 12 to 24 hours. And that’s just one item. All the chopping, dicing, and cooking that goes into from-scratch cooking is hard for families today. “I would give them the meal plan and a shopping list and recipes, and then life would take over,” Allard recalls, noting that it’s difficult to find prepared foods that support the kind of change she believes in. Drawing upon her former career as a management consultant, she built up a business plan allowing customers to construct a prepared meal to support their goals, and WholeMade Kitchen was born.
A WholeMade meal starts with the selection of entrees, like grass-fed beef Bolognese, packed with seven veggies and lean ground beef, or buffalo chicken casserole. Each comes with a green salad with house-made dressing and a choice of mix-and-match veggie sides like cauliflower rice or parsnip-herb mash, along with a flavorful condiment like bacon jam or chimichurri, to create a variety of meal options. In addition to offering grab-and-go seven days a week from their storefront, WholeMade currently delivers across much of the North Shore, from Andover to Essex. No subscription is required; delivery orders must be placed by Tuesday each week for delivery the following Monday.
While Allard hopes to grow her business on the North Shore and perhaps reach south toward Boston, she has no designs on becoming the next Blue Apron. “My mission is not to be a giant food company,” Allard says. “My mission is to help my local community heal themselves.”
151½ Hale St., Beverly, wholemadekitchen.com