Steiner Ranch resident Richie Romero took his interest in eating healthier, cleaner foods combined with giving back to the community to launch 512 Market Kitchen.
Co-owned by Le Cordon Bleu Austin-trained executive chef Sam Addison, 512 Market Kitchen offers a relationship with over 55 local farmers, providing fresh fare and ready-to-go meals.
“Our ultimate goal is to create a sustainable environment for local farmers and ranchers while providing fresh, local chef-prepared meals to the public,” Romero said.
Romero—who works full time as an art director in the video gaming industry—finds time to perform farm and ranch inspections for market suppliers. He checks to ensure they are growing what they say they are.
“We vet the suppliers, go out to their farms and ranches. We determine their overall watering habits (and) how they are handling weeds. If they say they’re organic, they have to provide the appropriate paperwork.”
512 Market Kitchen focuses on clean eating and making everything from scratch with no preservatives.
“We don’t claim to be low-calorie or a diet food, just looking for clean options,” Romero said.
512 Market Kitchen provides three ways to purchase prepared meals:
- Grab ‘n go locations including Cups & Cones in Steiner Ranch. Coolers are onsite with freshly prepared meals which have been frozen for ease of use.
- Online ordering—Orders placed from 512MarketKitchen.com by 1 p.m. Fridays are delivered to River Place and Steiner Ranch communities on Sundays and Mondays each week. This delivery service is currently free.
- Farmers markets—In addition to fresh fare, prepared meals are available for purchase at Lone Star Farmers Market, 12611 Shops Parkway, Bee Cave from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Sundays, and Republic Square Park, 422 West Guadalupe, downtown Austin from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Meals are prepared by Addison and two sous chefs in a 3,000-square-foot commercial kitchen off of South Congress during the week and delivered to both markets, plus Cups & Cones.
The 512 Market Kitchen team has experimented with what freezes well, what heats well, what ultimately tastes well, he said.
Prepared meals for immediate purchase became a staple at the farmers markets.
Romero selected Bee Cave for his first market since he felt it was a central location drawing upon Lakeway, Dripping Springs and Westlake communities.
He hopes to draw business from high rise condominiums for the downtown market location.
Romero initially started offering his products at a farmers market because he wanted to give back to the community and help small businesses thrive.
“When I started noticing people were actually relying on the market on a regular basis and enjoying coming out to the market, I knew this was something more than a farmers market. I was tapping into people’s livelihoods,” Romero said.
“For me, I sit behind a computer all day long, so this was something that had substance. The gaming industry is more artificial. The market is a bit more tangible,” he said.
Farmers markets and the 512 Market Kitchen are providing other opportunities. Romero, who has a special needs child, has met a handful of other families of children with special needs at the farmers markets.
“One family feels like their child who experiences sensory issues is more relaxed and at ease at the market. It’s one of the few places able to provide a place for her to visit while providing cleaner eating options in an effort to help control [her autism],” Romero said. “For me, that’s when it hit home a little deeper.”
Looking ahead, Romero is focusing on the grab ‘n go freezer location for business growth.
“Moms are running kids around after school for extra-curricular activities. We wanted to provide a local, clean eating alternative rather than running through McDonald’s or ordering pizza,” said Romero.
Romero plans to expand 512 Market Kitchen to a storefront location in the Four Points area within the next year. “With the storefront, we’d have a small breakfast and lunch menu and a large amount of grab ‘n go items to take home for heat and eat.”