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Delivering Big Flavor in Small Spaces

Chicago’s fast-casual restaurant Kaliflower uses sous vide to save on real estate and deliver healthy meals made to order.

By Diz Cohrs

Ben Arnstein says food has always been a top priority for him, but he pursued a very traditional business path before he decided to follow his passion. We spoke to Arnstein, the founder and CEO of Kaliflower, about first restaurant that serves up healthy meals in a super-central downtown Chicago location—and uses sous vide as a basis for its business model.

Sous-Vide: What was your original concept for Kaliflower?

Ben Arnstein: Kaliflower is a fast-casual restaurant specializing in cauliflower rice bowls and salads. We serve delicious and filling meals where flavor is developed through the use of unique spices and cooking techniques. From a business perspective, the use of modern equipment allows us to operate without expensive and intrusive ventilation, meaning we can have a competitive advantage in finding real estate and can operate more efficiently in a given space.

SV: How did you get into the restaurant business?

BA: I have always been passionate about food and restaurants, and I spent more than seven years across high school and college working every front-line job in the industry. After graduating from college at Duke University, I pursued a very traditional business path, working in management consulting and then at a private equity group. After I got an MBA from Harvard, I decided I was ready to make a career change and follow my passion. My wife went on to get her MBA from UChicago Booth, which brought us to Chicago and helped us choose the right home for the first location of Kaliflower.

SV: Why did you focus on sous vide as a cooking method?

BA: A couple of reasons: It produces high-quality food, and delivers operational efficiency. The scientific precision helps our staff more safely and consistently produce our chicken and eggs and deliver high-quality taste to customers each and every time. Operationally, it allows us to cook without cumbersome conventional equipment like fryers or grills. Finally, the sous vide cooks our proteins in a healthier way—free of added oils, but full of flavor.

SV: What sets Kaliflower apart from other fast-casual restaurants?

BA: A couple of reasons: Every single dish at Kaliflower is packed with flavor and leaves you full and satiated for the rest of the day. Not only do we deliver this crave-worthy flavor punch, we do it with clean and healthy ingredients. Simple ingredients, tons of vegetables, and thoughtful cooking—each and every time.

SV: What are some of your favorite items on the menu?

BA: I am biased and love everything on our menu (I created the recipes after all!). I eat each dish at least once a week. The Tikka and the Detox are the most popular bowls, and the chicken is the fan-favorite protein (thank you, sous vide!). Turmeric tofu has converted many tofu haters and is definitely worth a try!

SV: Any plans to open up other locations?

BA: Currently, we are hyper-focused on two things: Serving delicious food consistently and safely every single day, and providing the best service you could find in any dining establishment (casual or fine dining!). Our customers tell us we are succeeding on both fronts. If they ask for more places to enjoy our food, we definitely would be excited about expanding within Chicago and eventually other cities around the US.

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