Epicurean Group: Changing the Food Culture with Fresh, Local, & Sustainable Practices

When it comes to healthy food, people all over the world prioritize nutritional value. However, many are unaware of the extent of chemical usage in food production. In fact, in 2024 75 percent of non-organic produce – and 95 percent of items on the Dirty Dozen – is coated with pesticides which can disrupt human hormone systems. While people often assume that high-nutrient organic fruits and vegetables are inherently healthy, their limited understanding of the benefits of fresh, organic foods and the risks associated with pesticides hinders them from making truly nutritious choices. Consumption of organic food is often tied to overall healthier dietary practices, lower levels of overweight and obesity, and reduced incidence of metabolic syndrome, high BMI, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, infertility, birth defects, allergic sensitization, otitis media and pre-eclampsia.  

Most people are also unaware of the kinds of produce that must be eaten in different seasons. The value that lies in seasonal fruits and vegetables is exceptional. Unfortunately, if all types of foods are available all year round, the focus shifts from seasonal foods to the rest, which makes it unhealthy eating by comparison. By eating local, seasonal produce, you are not only enjoying the freshest flavors available to you, but you are also investing in the stewardship of the land and helping to transform our food system.

To promote fresh and healthy food, Mary Clark Bartlett Founded the Epicurean Group in 2003 with Co-Founder Marvin Rodriguez and Rey Hernandez. Entirely dedicated to sustainable dining, the group specializes in campus and corporate restaurants, distinctive community dining, and fine arts dining. Additionally, it also offers incomparable catering services for discerning clients.

Epicurean Services: Commitment to Local and Fresh Food Practices

A contract food service management company headquartered in Northern California, Epicurean Group services corporate America. Among its numerous clients are corporate business education, higher education, private education accounts, and specialty venues like museums. The group provides services in several US states, including Colorado and the northwest.

The company buys organic, seasonal, and fresh foods from local growers, producers, artisans, and farmers and provides them fresh. A value-based company, Epicurean Group functions on the principles of sustainability, integrity, and high quality. It is committed to helping its guests make smart food decisions.

The group is among the few authentically independent businesses. This provides it with the freedom to collaborate with local suppliers and farmers and offer fresh foods that are good for the mind and body. What’s more, the company is dedicated to cooking from scratch and avoiding any prepared or frozen foods that are high in sugar, sodium, or fat.

The group builds a menu based on the season. Mary says, “There are no menu cycles from the home office involved. We buy and cook by Mother Nature’s abundance and on her schedule.” In addition to this, the group buys only the highest-quality, fresh produce, dairy, seafood, and meats that are available in the local markets.

Founding Epicurean Group

In 2003, Mary worked for a company where Marvin, Rey, and Mary helped the company go national. Not only that, they also opened several huge accounts with them. At that point, they realized there wasn’t any upward movement for them. Thus, with a passion for fresh and healthy food, and for delivering exceptional dining experiences, they started their own company, known as Epicurean Group today.

Mary says, “Our clients have a very clear choice in the market today and be just another number in a big machine or to engage with a company like Epicurean Group, where each and every single one of our clients matters. It’s personal for us. We might be small, but we have a big bite!”

Resilience Through Adversity

The COVID pandemic affected economies across the globe. Epicurean Group was also among the businesses facing challenges at the time. Nonetheless, Mary says, “We managed that period very well. We came through it and maintained all of our managers and implemented Covid Safety training.

This is not it. The CEO also believes that these hard times made the company stronger. She says, “I think because of it, we’re stronger. Facing adversity head-on with challenges and with an open mind and that, too, with a team, to collaborate and come up with solutions is always the best way to do that. We’re a group that does that.”

The group is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, but Mary calls it a startup. Why? Because the team is still excited! This excitement is what keeps the team experimenting with numerous different things, making it stay up-to-date with the changing marketplace.

Setting the Group Apart

A majority of businesses in the food industry merely talk about local, fresh, and healthy food. Epicurean Group does it. In fact, the group does not only have the green certification (Green Business Certified since 2007) but it has also received several awards like the governor’s most prestigious award. Since 2013, it has ranked among the Food Management Top 50 Companies, which is highly noteworthy.

What’s more, the group also belongs to Slow Food USA and Slow Food International and is their delegate member. Attending the events with delegates from 150 other countries helps the company understand what kind of food they eat. This further helps them understand the alternatives to meat consumption for protein intake.

Epicurean Group is also a trendsetter with regard to the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen. While the Clean 15 refers to things that do not consist of pesticides, the latter are the items that are full of chemicals.

The group provides nutrition education to its communities called Learn at Lunch, which includes student and adult communities. From construction to recommendations on energy savings to food specifications to the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, Learn at Lunch covers everything. Mary says, “We believe that the millennials and the GenZ will change the food system.”

Even though there is plenty of rain this year, the company is still focused on preserving water. In addition, it focuses on converting trash into compost and conserving energy. This is what the core of the Epicurean Group is — it believes it is their duty to do everything for the upcoming generations.

The Perspective on Seasonal Foods

In food literacy, the group talks about the benefits of certain foods and what kinds of foods should be eaten together. Mary says, “We like to do nutrition education in our accounts and teach people how to eat.” For instance, even when one is in California and the food is available throughout the year, which kinds of foods are nutritious in which seasons, and when they are of the best taste and price.

For all those who live in climates where fresh foods are available, Mary suggests eating fresh food. This improves health, enhances focus, and maximizes performance. It also increases the ability to attain things and the ability to concentrate for longer durations. She says, “If you want peak mental and physical performance, you want good health, eating seasonal foods is worth the time, the education, and the investment.”

The Vision of Epicurean Group

The Epicurean Group has the vision to teach seasonal eating and health. Mary says, “We believe that when we eat well, we are happy and healthy, and that’s what everyone’s after.” There’s too much sugar and fat in the American diet, which is bad for blood sugar levels.

Several people are unaware of bad health. Nearly 66% of Americans are diabetic and are overweight. About 50 years ago, this was not the case. “My testament is looking at pictures from Disneyland in southern California from 60 years ago and then looking at pictures today,” says Mary.

Thus, the company’s goal is to keep people healthy and happy, to offer great foods that meet people’s budgets, and to use the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. Besides, Mary thinks that great foods bring great people together.

“We like to be partners with our clients, not necessarily vendors,” says Mary. In the last 20 years, the company has gone slow with teaching about food nutrition. It believes that its social media handles will change the food system in the entire nation. With this, the business will also grow nationally. Currently, the company is at the 65 million mark and hopes to reach the 130 million mark in the next three years.

Additionally, the group also plans to move into other states in the northwest and possibly the East Coast as well.

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