Red Bicycle Catering’s Kitchen Puts in All the Love
That Devil who makes work for idle hands? He won’t find them at Red Bicycle Catering’s kitchen in Redding. The hands of owner Michelle Cave, sous chef Joanna Self, and prep cooks Kelly Shackleford and Kellie Prinzel fly between tasks on the days they create Red Bicycle Catering’s Wellness Bowls and Wellness on the Side dishes. The women grate, chop, and roast vegetables, boil noodles and whole grains, fashion meatloaf into muffin tins, toss ingredients with tasty sauces and dressings for roasting or assembling, sprinkle on seed or herb garnishes. High school students arrive after school to label the bowls for distribution at markets and eateries in Redding. All their hands work in service of providing nutrient-dense, super flavorful, whole foods for the Redding community.
A certified nutrition consultant, educator, and whole foods chef, Michelle Cave has been cooking such food for eighteen years. She began focusing on preparing these foods after her son was born, and by the time her kids started school, she was offering organic gardening and cooking classes for kids and their parents. She has worked with Redding Rancheria Tribal Health Community, catering healthy lunches each quarter and teaching cooking classes and nutrition workshops.
In 2017, she opened Red Bicycle Catering downtown in Redding. Back then, in addition to catering business lunches and family celebrations, she provided dinners to Redding customers through an online menu of seasonal offerings; they phoned, emailed, or ordered from a weekly menu and picked up their meals the next day.
Now, in her effort to serve even more families, her kitchen prepares main dishes and sides, up to 500 per week, that customers can buy at Orchard Nutrition, the Holiday markets on Placer and in Palo Cedro, and Theory Collaborative in downtown Redding. Menus showing the seasonal bowls on rotation from Red Bicycle Catering’s kitchen show its whole food emphasis, heavy on grains and vegetables. As she did with her own young children, she lures her customers into healthy eating by assuring the food tastes fabulous. “If people don’t love it on the first bite,” says Michelle, “we’ve lost them.” Losing them is not going to happen.
Red Bicycle Catering’s beef soup and turkey potpies begin with bones and move on to bone broth before taking shape as the soup and potpie gravy customers love.
NOT JUST A PRETTY TASTE
It’s love at first bite because the food tastes so good, but it’s so much more than tasty. The food takes hours to prepare, from scratch, ingredients Michelle sources carefully so that all is the freshest, most nutrient-dense she can obtain. Anyone who thinks nutrient-dense means flavor-light will be dissuaded by this food.
Seasonal, organic vegetables come from local farms Cove Crest Farm & Winery, Fulfilling Fields Organic Farm, Farmelot, Edible Endeavors Organic Farm, Field to Fork Tehama, and GRUB. “It’s like Christmas when Bev [from Cove Crest Farm] brings her CSA box,” laughs Michelle. Grassfed beef and organic chicken come from Stemple Creek Ranch and Mary’s, pork from Llano Seco; tofu is organic and tuna is sustainably harvested. Wellness Bowls use organic Udon noodles and heirloom grains. Michelle chooses shiitake mushrooms—they are twice as expensive as the more common cremini mushroom but, she notes, have immune system benefits not offered by the cheaper variety.
The spices she uses she sources from Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene; she chooses them for their freshness and also because the company has earned numerous awards for its organic, fair trade, small farm sourcing of fresh and dried herbs, its packaging, its LEED building, and its business practices.
Those are the kinds of considerations that go into Michelle’s shopping, and the same care goes into food preparation. She spends her time shopping and prepping so that you and I don’t have to. For example, Red Bicycle Catering’s beef soup and turkey potpies begin with bones and move on to bone broth before taking shape as the soup and potpie gravy customers love. The muffin tin meatloaves? In those, meat meets chopped carrots, cabbage, onion, and celery. When these chefs roast the tofu to golden brown, it’s been marinated in tamari, ginger, agave, harissa, and many other ingredients. What’s more, the cooks make several different entrees and sides at a time.
“If people don’t love it on the first bite,” says owner and chef Michelle Cave, “we’ve lost them.”
ONE DAY’S OUTPUT
At the end of the day I hung out in Red Bicycle Catering’s kitchen, hundreds of five kinds of Wellness Bowls were ready. The chefs made sesame ginger Udon noodles topped with marinated and roasted chicken or tofu. They made turkey potpies, meatloaf with roasted potatoes and braised cabbage, and lemon herbed chicken or Portobello mushrooms with quinoa tabouli and sautéed greens. Before lids were placed on the meals in recyclable bowls, they scattered chopped mint, green onions, black sesame seeds on top, and maybe a zig zag of a special sauce. It was an enormous production, and it proceeded with good will and great smells, one chef anticipating the needs of another, yet each responsible for tasks of her own, efficient work from caring cooks.
Gluten free, the turkey potpies had no crust; instead, their fabled filling—with its Thanksgiving scents—sat in halves of roasted acorn squash. For the meatloaf bowl, two muffin-tin meatloaves sat atop braised green cabbage and potatoes roasted to a crisp exterior. The roasted tofu atop the Udon noodle bowls showed a similarly crisp exterior, and a fat layer of sautéed kale and garlic—another arresting scent—separated the tabouli from lemon thyme chicken or mushrooms in that dish.
Chef Michelle Cave sings a paean to cruciferous vegetables—cabbage, kale, broccoli, arugula get tucked into surprising dishes in her kitchen.
LOVE IN, LOVE OUT
Michelle’s goal is love at first bite. She achieves it because she puts love into designing menus, sourcing and cooking food, and offering bowls and sides at a reasonable cost. She easily sings a paean to cruciferous vegetables—cabbage, kale, broccoli, arugula get tucked into surprising dishes in her kitchen. In casual conversation, she refers to Mind Body Medicine of Michigan and similar institutes in Boston.
She references how whole foods can help us respond to a traumatic event and mentions the food from local farms her kitchen prepared for Redding firefighters during the Carr Fire. There’s nothing braggadocio, though, all knowledge, humility, and conviction.
Her face flushed from the kitchen’s heat and her own nonstop chopping, mixing, roasting, ladling, Michelle drinks a green smoothie—a regular concoction for the kitchen workers, usually fruit, kale, celery, spirulina, and whey powder protein—from a quart Mason jar; then she’s back to work. That gesture, without the slightest self-consciousness, expresses who she is. She makes it easy to place faith in the foods from her kitchen and to believe there’s love in every bite. Love in, love out.
Red Bicycle Catering’s Wellness Bowls and Wellness on the Side dishes are available at Orchard Nutrition, Holiday Market on Placer Street, and Theory Collaborative in Redding, and at the Holiday Market in Palo Cedro. Visit redbicyclecatering.com to take a look at the appealing seasonal Wellness Bowls currently on offer and to learn more about the business.
Earl Bloor and Candace Byrne were introduced to Edible Communities when Candace googled “sustainability Cape Cod” and the search revealed Edible Cape Cod. After Candace wrote for both Edible Cape Cod and Edible Sacramento and the couple saw first hand how the publications encouraged sustainability in two very different locales, they embarked on their own publication, Edible Shasta-Butte. This new venture, grounded in Edible Communities’ goal to “connect consumers with family farmers, growers, chefs, and food artisans of all kinds,” complements the couple’s long careers in education. It also takes them back to their roots, when Earl grew up next door to his parents’ eatery, The Spot, in Kincardine, Ontario, and Candace’s mom engaged all the kids in baking and wrapping goodies as gifts for every holiday.