How Asian Box Catering Stays Committed to Sustainability
- Meredith Bethune
- 3 Min Read
Health-conscious Californians are loving the fresh, flavorful, and nourishing food available through Asian Box catering. This Vietnamese-influenced mini-chain, with ten locations in both Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, specializes in rice boxes, noodles, and salads topped with only the very best proteins and vegetables. They use only local and from-scratch ingredients, serving it all in eco-friendly and compostable containers. And as an unexpected (but welcome) bonus, everything is gluten-free.
The first location of Asian Box opened in Palo Alto in 2012 when executive chef Grace Nguyen, culinary director Chad Newton, and CEO Frank Klein got together to serve the delicious flavors of Vietnam in a fast-casual, healthful, and environmentally-friendly way. Their dishes are entirely customizable, and catering customers rave about the Big Box package that comes with favorite menu items like coconut curry tofu, lemongrass pork, or basil-lime shrimp. It’s no wonder CNBC recently named it one of the ten hot restaurant brands to watch.
The founders’ commitment to sustainability has remained unwavering throughout the recent expansion. Chef Nguyen still insists on using only the freshest, all-natural products that are never frozen and contain no hormones, additives, steroids, pesticides, or antibiotics. The staff still minimally preps the ingredients and cooks every meal from scratch.
So how do they do it? Ashley Ceasar, a graduate of nearby Santa Clara University, has been working with Asian Box since their first store development more than six years ago. As the California Catering Director, she oversees orders for ten stores and describes the Asian Box approach to sourcing ingredients. We talked to Ashley Ceasar about how Asian Box catering develops their menu and puts an original spin on street food.
What sets Asian Box catering apart from other restaurants in California?
First, our food is incredibly fresh, healthy, and authentic. We’re also more responsive and flexible than other caterers. We even have full liquor catering and can create custom events like Asian pig roasts and other fun stuff.
Your menu is fairly unique, offering Asian street food dishes made with healthy and local ingredients. How did you develop it and decide on the items you offer?
We had eaten at too many Asian restaurants where all the food tasted the same. It didn’t have that crisp quality or freshness, nor did they offer much in the way of fresh vegetables. So we partnered with our executive chef, Grace Nguyen, who has been cooking Vietnamese food her entire life. Her family recipes inspired her, and we so created a balanced menu with bases of rice, salad, or noodles, along with proteins like soy & garlic-braised beef or coconut curry tofu topped with the customer’s choice of vegetables, herbs, homemade pickles, bean sprouts, crispy shallots, and lime.
Even as it grows, the Asian Box catering program still uses local produce and makes everything from scratch. What kind of special challenges do you face because of this?
It’s important to keep the communication lines open with the suppliers to make sure the food chain is continuous. But it’s all positive, in the end, because using local produce guarantees the food’s freshness.
What advice do you have for caterers looking to improve the quality of their ingredients?
Just do it. Strive to source honest and transparent ingredients. Start with asking your current purveyors about alternatives and inquire about local, fresher ingredients. Don’t use products with any “fillers” or “additives.”
What’s next regarding catering for Asian Box?
We’re rolling out our Generation 2018 programs with new items, new packaging, and some cool “all in one” meal options for offices.
What’s your favorite menu item?
I like the Miss Jones, which is a very traditional street food item packed with Lemongrass Pork, Chilled Noodles, Veggies, Caramel Egg, and Fish Sauce.
Hear how caterers in San Jose have grown their catering businesses at our ezChats San Jose event.
Are you based in California? Place a catering order at an Asian Box location near you.