NEW JERSEY — As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to devastate the country, sickening more than 4 million people and claiming more than 300,000 lives to date, many local businesses in the food and beverage industry are making it their obligation to step in and deliver meals to all the nurses, physicians and first-responders on the front lines of this unthinkable health crisis.
Of them is Eat Clean Bro, a delivery restaurant based in Freehold Township in Central New Jersey that services 17 eastern and southern states to bring delicious and nutritious chef-prepared meals conveniently to your door. Since the novel coronavirus crisis was first dubbed a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March, the restaurant has delivered thousands of freshly-made meals to hospital and emergency services personnel to more than 20 entities up and down New York and New Jersey from the Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune City to the FDNY Engine 330 Ladder 172 in Brooklyn. Other recent stops included the New York University Langone Hospital in New York City to the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center & Children’s Hospital of New Jersey and the New York Presbyterian Hospital and the NYPD in Staten Island. Most recently, Eat Clean Bro’s signature royal blue-colored van has rolled up to the Hoboken University Medical Center.
“I have such respect and gratitude for these people,” said Eat Clean Bro President and Founder Jamie Giovinazzo in a recent phone interview. “I have a personal connection to anyone suffering in a crisis. I feel obligated to help in any way shape or form.”
Back in late October 2012, when Superstorm Sandy tore through the northeast, Canada and the Caribbean causing $70 billion in damage and claimed the lives of 147 people, Giovinazzo was one of the many families who were heavily impacted by the post-tropical cyclone. His beloved childhood home in Laurence Harbor, an unincorporated community situated on the Raritan Bay within Old Bridge Township, was ravaged with a surge of water that damaged the interior and with it the fixture of three generations. While he had a place to stay with a friend, Giovinazzo’s mother “scrambled” for a place to live before the Federal Emergency Management Agency secured a 55 and older community.
“It’s something I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget how I felt,” he recalled of the devastation. “After Hurricane Sandy, I was so upset. I made a declaration to myself I would never be poor again.”
That December and a new year approaching, Giovinazzo made the decision to emerge from his depressive slump and “take on the world.” This coming from a man whose past was preceded with a work history that involved a string of short-lived restaurant jobs in South Jersey from Asbury Park to Point Pleasant — all of which he was fired from due to his so-called “big mouth.” But, as simply put by the great Thomas Edison, “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The same can be applied to Giovinazzo.
They say if you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it’s yours. That was certainly the case with Giovinazzo. On January 13, 2013, the self-described “shredded” 6-foot-one-inch weightlifter, then in his mid-20s, turned over a new leaf. After receiving a call from a friend who he had previously cooked for, the opportunity to put his cooking skills to the test presented itself once again, and it was a challenge Giovinazzo readily accepted. After all, Giovinazzo was no stranger to cooking for people. His first foray in the professional world of cooking was at age 19 when he prepared meals for someone who had approached him in the gym who admired the discipline tied to his toned physique, and was curious to know his dietary secrets. While success didn't pan out just yet given his naiveté, he tried his hand at other jobs before finally running with this golden opportunity he received later on in life.
Flash-forward seven years later, taking his last $300 he had made while bartending in South Jersey, he walked up to the local grocery store and sold 82 of his meals — the beginning of what spawned a successful venture for the budding entrepreneur. Giovinazzo used the opportunity to start his own business to harness all his resources, finally getting a chance to apply all the ideas that weren’t acknowledged at his prior places of employment — combined with his cooking and bodybuilding expertise — from the ground up.
The result? Eat Clean Bro: reasonably-priced, savory and “clean” homemade meals to help people “lose weight, eat better and feel better.” The business name, an a-ha moment of which came from his father, Jeffrey, was a simple precept Giovinazzo uttered for years to everyone around him to keep their diets on the right track and their physiques in shape.
“From my bodybuilding background, I knew how to help people lose weight and eat super clean,” says the 33-year-old father of two, who went from chef to president and owner of Eat Clean Bro. “I took an approach where I combined childhood favorites with better ingredients.”
Eat Clean Bro’s menu is expansive, with a colorful and meticulously-presented assortment of protein-packed, tantalizing options from which to choose. Dishes range from The Situation (named for Jersey Shore’s Mike Sorrentino, a staunch supporter): grilled lemon-herb chicken and cajun shrimp served with steamed broccoli over a bed of protein noodles tossed with a low-fat Francaise sauce to the Anthony Ashnault, named for the freestyle wrestler: roasted salmon filet served over orzo pasta, topped with Picatta sauce and served with a side of steamed asparagus. Simple Steak 2.0 is another delectable choice: tender grilled top sirloin served over an herb-infused roasted Brussel sprouts and sweet potato hash with a side of smokey cilantro rouille dipping sauce.
Delivery is free for customers living within a 15-mile radius of the Freehold location, and loyal customers can earn bonus points for every meal they purchase. ($1 per point; $100 points equates to a $3 credit.)
Since the coronavirus crisis, Eat Clean Bro has been busier than ever. Over the past two months, the entrepreneurial powerhouse has delivered more than $60,000 in meals and $10,000 in gift cards to health care workers and first-responders, among others community members in need. In March, Jenni “J-Woww” Farley of Jersey Shore teamed up with Eat Clean Bro to donate 500 prepared meals to all departments at the Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune City. Last month, another 40 were delivered locally to Hoboken University Medical Center.
“The love and support that we’re getting from the medical field is amazing,” said Giovinazzo. “When this all started happening, I felt compelled to give back as much as I can. Everyone deserves a little thank-you for everything they’ve been doing. It’s not easy being quarantined, but the positivity I’m surrounded by every day has been overwhelming and made the quarantine a lot easier.”
A sharp contrast from his past working experience, Giovinazzo is now running a staff of more than 100 employees whose employment is secure and whose ideas he values just as much as their presence.
“I worked really hard in the beginning,” he noted. “I have so many great employees. Every day is a vacation. I’m really proud that the company from top to bottom is a good group of people. Nobody goes to my company and feels like their jobs are on the line. It’s giving everyone a platform to give input to… I let everyone create a really good environment — a safe, secure place to work with an open forum to bring new ideas and make a better company.”
And to the people who doubted his potential for greatness?
“I hope when they see my billboard, they realize I was trying to help them and they fired me,” he joked.
To view the full menu and to inquire about delivery, go to eatcleanbro.com.