Whitney McClendon has degrees in multiple scientific disciplines. Although these credentials helped her land management positions at various cancer research centers in Texas, she now plans and provides farm-to-table meals at Provision Kitchen, a fresh and healthy restaurant in Nichols Hills Plaza.
With her background in science, she seeks to infuse her eatery’s menu with ingredients sourced from Provision Kitchen’s dedicated organic farm. In fact, every aspect of the business, from each ingredient to packaging to water, employs sustainable methods designed to reduce waste, increase health and prevent disease.
In the following Q&A, McClendon outlines her journey from the lab to the kitchen and offers some advice for the non-scientists among us when it comes to delicious, healthy food and healthy eating.
Tell us a little about your vision and your history.
I have a master’s degree in public health and an immense passion for disease prevention. My vision is to utilize my expertise to provide OKC with the ultimate in nutrition and delicious, farm-fresh convenience at Provision Kitchen (6443 Avondale Drive).
We try to make it most convenient for people to combine truly healthful eating and absolutely delicious food. As a healthy restaurant, Provision Kitchen strives to be a haven where people can eat what they want, when they want it, knowing that everything — from each ingredient to our complete water-filtration system and even our packaging — is optimal for their health. So that people can have as much information about our meals as possible, we have created the PK Pillars, which state our applied standards and help customers understand why we do what we do.
How did you personally get into the healthy restaurant world?
To follow my husband’s career, we moved to Oklahoma City in December 2013. I stayed on (at my job), working remotely for the Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston. That gave me time to explore and enjoy the city and really think about how I could possibly make a difference here.
It became apparent that our growing city had ever-increasing demands for tasty, but also truly healthy eating options, so I began to combine my passion for cooking with my profession, which developed into the Provision Kitchen concept.
Since Provision Kitchen is focused on providing farm-to-table fresh foods, what challenges does that present?
The farm is constantly about six months ahead of the restaurant. We are anticipating menu items and potential sales seasons ahead so that the farm can order organic seeds/starts and begin planning for planting and harvesting per Provision Kitchen demands. Additionally, the Oklahoma weather can be quite a challenge! We have commercial and mini high tunnels, so that helps a lot, but you never know how Mother Nature will skew your plans.
Tell us about your farm(s) from which you get a lot of your ingredients.
About seven miles from the restaurant, Provision Organic Farm is our family-owned USDA-certified organic farm. POF and Provision Kitchen work together year round to plan harvests for items at the restaurant. In many ways, the seasons inspire our menus.
The farm hosts acres of vegetables, on-site composting and livestock. POF’s sustainable farming practices provide an optimal environment for our animals, and they allow us to grow the most nutritious vegetables possible. POF exclusively uses non-GMO and soy-free animals feeds because we are 100 percent committed to organic farming methods.
The farm and Provision Kitchen communicate multiple times a day, and deliveries are made nearly every day from the farm to the organic restaurant.
How do you balance your desire to be as sustainable as possible with the fundamental expenses of running a business at scale?
This is a constant challenge. Doing things right and maintaining the highest quality standards is not easy or inexpensive, but I am constantly researching and implementing sustainable tactics to keep costs as low as possible. The ultimate health and quality standards for our customers is always my No. 1 goal, and keeping costs affordable comes just after that.
Although running a local, organic farm is costly, having direct access to produce with no middleman really helps the restaurant keep otherwise higher food costs down.
What are your personal favorite menu items?
I love the protein omelet or seasonal oatmeal for breakfast. (I stock my fridge so I can pop it in the microwave during a busy — or even the occasional lazy — morning). I absolutely love our daily hot bar for lunch or dinner! We rotate out the menu every day or two so that we can highlight the freshest ingredients from the farm. This is always so filling and flavorful, and I know it is healthy, too! My favorite salad right now is the stone-fruit salad from our spring menu.
If you could give readers one piece of advice for how they can improve their relationships with food, what would that be?
Eat real food, and plenty of it! I believe eating a diet rich in vegetables with a balance of protein (organic and/or grass-fed when possible) and healthy carbs (yes, carbs!) is the best diet for everyone, regardless of age.
The nutrients found in these whole foods are ever more important for preventing disease, providing energy and brain clarity. Your body recognizes real ingredients, so you can process them more easily, keep inflammation down and feel truly satisfied without the guilt.