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Eat Right

Lakewood chef Matt DeGrandis founded his catering company on the concept of fast, healthful meals. DeGrandis gives tips on how to re-create his low-fat flavors at home.
By Carrie Bizga
Tip 1:
Use as little fat as possible when sautéing. Start with a small amount of oil heated quickly over a high flame. Then add water, stock or wine and cover the pan. The liquid will make up for flavor lost to the decrease in fat.

Tip 2:
Grill, then roast. DeGrandis marinates lean meat such as poultry, fish, pork or choice cuts of beef, then sears it on the grill, cooking it for one to two minutes before roasting in an oven at 350 degrees. "I find finishing items on the grill dries it out, while an oven keeps it moist without any serious charring loaded with carcinogens,” he says, adding, "Let the meat rest to retain its juices.”

Tip 3:
Use lean cuts of beef. Flank steak or a true London broil are great examples. Get the best flavor by letting the meat marinate for a few hours or overnight. Then grill it for two minutes on each side, roast to an internal temperature of about 130 degrees and let it rest. When ready to serve, slice the flank thin against the grain, DeGrandis says. Use the meat in fajitas or serve flank steak alone with a homemade, low-cal horseradish sauce.See Quick Recipe 1.

Tip 4:
Take a classic recipe and alter the components. Replace fatty ingredients with heartier ones. "I takecoq au vin [chicken braised in wine], a classic French dish normally using a broken-down chicken, and substituted boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs,” he explains. In his recipe, red wine is a main ingredient that will reduce and concentrate its acidity and sweetness, adding great flavor. For DeGrandis’ low-fatcoq au vin recipe, visit westshoremag.com.

Tip 5:
Grill your vegetables. A great way to add serious flavor to vegetables without using butter or salt is to grill them and then hit them with a balsamic glaze. You can use almost any vegetable that is in season. See Quick Recipe 2.
Quick Recipe 1: Low-Cal Horseradish Sauce
Combine the following ingredients: 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise; 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream;
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard; 2 green onions, finely chopped; and 3 teaspoons prepared horseradish (may substitute wasabi paste). A strong flavor from the horseradish and mustard will make up for any loss of fat.

Quick Recipe 2: Grilled Vegetables with a Balsamic Glaze
For the veggies, combine and grill: 1 yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise; 1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise; 1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch thick circles; 1 red onion, sliced in 1/2-inch thick circles; 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut in half lengthwise; 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut in half lengthwise; 2 Portobello mushroom caps.
For the balsamic glaze: Boil 2 cups balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring it to a boil and reduce until thick and syrupy. Prepare the vegetables, then toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, teaspoon of salt, pinch of pepper (most of the oil and salt will end up in the grill). Grill vegetables for a couple minutes on each side. Remove from grill and give them a rough chop. Then drizzle the balsamic glaze over top.


In the Kitchen

Matt DeGrandis doesn’t have a worry in the world. Or at least that’s what he’ll make you think.

With a shrug of his shoulders, the overly relaxed chef and owner of catering company Feed Me! LLC casually discusses his tribulations in the kitchen. Such as the time he arrived at work the day before a catering event to find his refrigerator broken and all the food ruined.

"It was a crazy day,” he recalls, "but I had to get the job done.” He made a quick call to his insurance company, and a new shipment of food was on its way. He carried off the event without a hitch, and then was on to the next project.

Since starting the Lakewood-based catering company in 2005, DeGrandis has learned his job is all about adapting to the elements. Fresh out of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, the Westlake native moved back to Cleveland to start his company, and founded it on the concept of take-and-bake, healthful cuisine.

"I knew I had to open on the West Side in order to utilize my family, friends and contacts to allow the business to spread by word of mouth,” he says. With a location in mind, next came his hook. With the overwhelming popularity of the Atkins and South Beach diets at the time, DeGrandis wanted to throw his own health trend into the mix. His concept was an online delivery service that would bring chef-prepared meals to customers’ doorsteps. He offered two options, savory or healthy, labeled with nutrition information, expiration dates and heating instructions.

"The concept of portion control was really the selling point,” he says. "That, and we did all the leg work. All the customer had to do was order.”

But the notion never took off. "People told me it was a great idea,” DeGrandis recalls. "But the problem was I wasn’t getting enough orders.”

When a friend, a local pharmaceutical sales rep, asked him to cater a lunch for a group of doctors, DeGrandis knew it was time to adapt once again and change his focus. "After that first sale, I knew that I needed to revamp my business model. I already had a kitchen, another chef and delivery drivers,” he says. Within two days he had overhauled the company concept from business-to-consumer to business-to-business catering.

Since then he says Feed Me! has grown six-fold. DeGrandis and former Chicago classmate Larry Chiccola have also developed a similar concept for the East Side of town, Chagrin Valley Cuisine, which offers personal and corporate catering.

Outside the kitchen, DeGrandis confesses his life is pretty average. He spends most of his time with his wife, Sarah, and their sons, 1-year-old Connor and 3-month-old Jake. And like any other foodie, he’s obsessed with the Food Network — an addiction he credits with inspiring him to go to culinary school after college.

Feed Me! Sub Shop Will Make You Famous!

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Feed Me!, a catering company since 2006 announces the introduction of its newest venture Feed Me! Subs!, located in Lakewood at 13611 Detroit Ave. The locally owned and operated Sub Shop pays homage to our beloved city. Their signature subs are named after Cleveland celebrities. You can order gourmet with a Drew Carey-Grilled Chicken, Provolone, Lettuce, Carmelized Onions, Roasted Red Peppers and Pesto Mayo. -Sliced Ham, Swiss Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato and Mustard Sauce. All Subs are offered on a Sub Roll, Ciabatta Sub or Wrap.

Customers are also given the opportunity to create their own sub and name it, or as Feed Me! calls it, "Be The Sub”. Create your own sub and name it. Feed Me! will save your customized named sub in the their computer for your future orders. Be sure to add hand-cut fries with your order and don't forget the fry sauce.

"I am very excited about the addition of the Sub Shop to Feed Me!” says owner Matt DeGrandis. "For four years we have been mostly corporate and pharmaceutical rep caterers delivering throughout greater Cleveland. We now have a chance to connect with our local community.”