Lucinda Duncalfe Podcast Interview

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Lucinda Duncalfe is the founder of Real Food Works is an innovative meal delivery company that delivers fresh locally prepared meals to your door. The company primarily makes meals that are plant based whole foods, with very little meat.

The meals are delicious and very healthy for you. If you are serious about eating better, you will want to learn more about Lucinda’s new venture.


Lucinda DuncalfeDWB: Today we are excited to have Lucinda Duncalfe on the show. Lucinda is a very accomplished entrepreneur having founded and developed numerous successful technology companies. Her work has won many awards including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, named as one of America’s Top 20 Consultants and been awarded a CEO of the Year honor.

We wanted to talk with Lucinda today because of her most recent start-up venture, Real Food Works is a meal delivery company that provides healthy meals that use fresh ingredients and are prepared locally, not from a factory thousands of miles away. I encourage everyone to listen to Lucinda, as she is truly revolutionizing the food industry with the quality of food she is delivering. Lucinda thanks for joining us today. Welcome to the show.

GUEST: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

DWB: So before you started with Real Food Works, your experience was primarily in the technology industry? What caused you to want to start a food company?

GUEST: Yes. It is a very big switch. Although certainly it is still entrepreneurial, it’s a big switch. It was really my personal experience. So I had sold my last company in the summer of 2011, and my mom suggested that I watch the documentary, “Forks over Knives.” I would highly recommend that to any of you listeners who haven’t seen it yet. It’s really about how to follow a plant-based diet and the amazing health implications of that diet in reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and how you can lose weight and just feel better overall.

So, I watched the movie and did a lot of research and started to eat that way, had as I think you did it as well. You’ve done this and had just tremendous results personally. I lost some weight. I felt way more energetic. I have arthritis in a number of my joints and the pain went down. It was just great. But I also found it incredibly difficult. As a working mom, I have two school-aged girls, cooking, it’s time consuming, and there weren’t a lot of options when you’re eating out. So I really started Real Food Works to solve my own problem of “How do I maintain this diet, that has worked so well for me and I enjoy eating?” I think it’s one of the wonderful things about it is to actually enjoy the food but it was just really hard to get access to.

MEAL DELIVERY CONCEPT logoDWB:There are a number of different aspects of Real Food Works that make it different from other meal delivery companies including the health aspect that we’ll get to the moment.

For those people who don’t know, what is a “meal delivery company?” How did your method of delivering the meals differ so significantly from others such as NutriSystem or Jenny Craig?

GUEST: Yes so when I first started the company, I used to think of it as a NutriSystem, which is a local company here in Philadelphia, where we’re headquartered. It’s just with healthy food that actually tastes great. So that’s what a meal delivery company is that you sign up for a subscription and meals are delivered to you each day or week or month or whatever, depending on the company. That’s what they are.

Our meals are so different I think for two reasons. The first is the actual nutritional quality of the meal. We’re very big believers in a plant-based whole food diet. So our food is not processed. It’s all completely natural ingredients. The ingredient list may be long, but that’s because they’re full of spices, herbs and wonderful ingredients that makes the stuff taste absolutely great, which is the second difference.

Our food is absolutely great, and the reason is because it’s produced by our network of local independent restaurants. So the way it works is that we contract with local restaurants. They’re not necessary, particularly healthy-oriented, they just have great food. We then work directly with them to create dishes that meet our very high nutritional standards and our shared very high culinary standards. So, it’s a very different experience than one of these other systems or services where the food is created. It’s certainly to nutritional specification but not necessarily natural, not necessarily fresh, certainly not whole food based.

DWB:So, it sounds like eating out at a restaurant every day of the week. However [Laughs], the types of meals you’re getting are but a normal restaurant there, it sounds like…

GUEST: That’s right.

WHAT YOU CAN EAT, WHAT YOU CAN’T mealDWB: Maybe go to a little bit more of the philosophy behind how the meals are chosen and prepared.

GUEST: Absolutely. So, the power of a whole food plant-based diet is really best described, I think, by Michael Pollan, who’s actually a journalist. A few may have heard of the “Omnivores Dilemma” and his new book, “Cooked.” He says, this guy has wonderful pithy statements, and he says things like, “If your grandmother doesn’t recognize it as food, then it probably isn’t.” The one that we really live by is he said, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” If you break that down, that’s really what we do with our restaurants.

So by food, we mean nothing is processed, nothing is manufactured. We don’t do sort of vague low fat something. We only use real food and mostly plants. So our food actually has no dairy in it, no added oils, very limited added salt, and no added processed sweeteners. We do have some meat, fish and poultry but only a few times a week. So what you get is this amazing bounty of plant-based things like vegetables, deep dark leafy greens, fruits, legumes like whole grains and a myriad of whole grains not only rice but also amaranth, Kamut and millet and all these wonderful foods, prepared in this incredibly ingenious ways.

So for example for breakfast this morning, I had a brown rice pudding with berry compote. It’s absolutely delicious. Another one, just taking breakfast for a second for example, is a wrap that is made in collard greens with tofu flavored with cumin, curry and a side of potatoes. So it’s all these very wonderful delicious, luscious, satisfying food but is made from completely clean ingredients. You’d recognized it all, you’d know it all and there are these health results that come out just like you think when you eat real food.

DWB: Wow. I’m getting hungry already and it’s only 1:20 on the East Coast here.

GUEST: I know me too.

DWB: You touched upon it briefly but I want to highlight it a bit, it’s not just the food you eat, it’s the food that you don’t eat.

GUEST: That’s right.

DWB: …which is I think is very important under this program because you can eat the best diet in the world but it it’s loaded with fat and all those sorts of things, then you kind of take away the health benefits of the good stuff. If you could just touch upon a little bit more about the stuff that you try to avoid on this diet and helps make a difference.

GUEST: Yes. So I think at the actual top of the list is dairy. So we don’t have dairy of any type. That might sound terrifying to people, but in fact there are also some things that you can do with nuts, for example, we have an amazing zucchini lasagna that has a deep rich flavor but is made with a cashew cream instead of dairy. I think you see people over and over again just have extraordinary results when they cut dairy out of their diets. So that’s part of the list of the top things that we don’t have.

We don’t have added oils at all. Oil is… One of the fundamental principles we’re working from is nutritional density. So we want to eat foods that have lots and lots of nutrition per calorie. Oil has a lot of calories and very little nutrients. I know that olive oil has become sort of a darling. But the reality is, there’s not that much in it per calorie and what is there is generally dissipated by the time it gets to you from the processing and just time and it degrades. Then when you cook it, you degrade it even further.

So we’re really focused on not adding excess fat in. Now, if you have some nuts and seeds, that’s totally great. Avocado has a fair amount of fat in them but your body handles those differently and that doesn’t drive towards diabetes and heart disease the way animal-based fats do.

We don’t use added sweeteners. We do use some natural sweeteners, you’ll see some date sugar. There might be a little bit of agave syrup in a salad dressing and in that sort of thing. But there are no corn sweeteners, there’s no sugar of any type. So that when you clean these kinds of things out of your diet, your body metabolizes much more effectively and you don’t result to these all sorts of downstream problems.

We do offer a little bit of the familiar fish and poultry and even red meat like with buffalo burger, for example. We do that because we really find it’s too hard for many people, mentally and emotionally, to make the jump to eating no animal protein. I personally don’t, and you certainly don’t have to. But we do offer it in every week because I’d rather have somebody eating 80% clean diet for the rest of their lives than 100% clean diet for months.

I think it’s very important in this despite how hard core that we are but we have this room as well for a little bit of fun.

DWB: Truth, I agree. I know that I like following the diet, but my parents, they need a little bit of meat, couple of times a week, at least. [Laughs]

GUEST: Exactly. People just do. Maybe it’s a little unclear to me from the science, but it maybe bodies operate differently than some people do. Most of the scientists who do all these research would say, “You don’t really, you just think you do.” I don’t know whether that’s the case or not. But if it helps people stick with it, it’s fine.

NUTRITIONAL INFLUENCERS meal2DWB: You mentioned Michael Pollan. Are there any other folks that you would highlight as being influences on how you began to develop the nature of the cuisine?

GUEST: Oh yes. There’s really a long list of these folks. I think at the very top of our list would have to be Dean Ornish. Dean Ornish’s research was really… 20-30 years ago now I guess, it was absolutely ground breaking in terms of the ability to actually work not just stop but reverse heart disease in extremely, extremely ill patients. Now, he does it with the combination of diet, exercise and sort of “wellness spirituality,” and happiness kind of stuff. He’s followed by Dr. Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic and T. Colin Campbell at Cornell are also very, very deep influences. Those are probably the three biggest in terms of the science.

Then, we turn over and look at the practitioners, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who’s in New Jersey and is seen in East Coast at least on PBS all the time. He’s been a real influence. Who else? That’s probably the top list. There are many others.

This guy, Jeff Novick who’s actually a nutritionist, is very helpful. On our advisory board is Dr. Greger who has which is a great resource. There is Neal Barnard who is another very important person. There’s panoply of folks. But I think the three big ones from a research standpoint I’d have to say are doctors Ornish, Esselstyn and Campbell.


DWB: Currently, your services are only offered in the Philadelphia area but my understanding is you have plans to take this nationwide. Can you share your extension plans and probably some time frames when other people might be able to see this around the country?

GUEST: Absolutely. We are dying to get to the next market. As a small company, one of the challenges always is to pace growth so that you don’t grow too quickly. We’re really working to make sure that we have all of our processes and procedures and our software systems and all the rest completely buttoned up before we extend.

We anticipate moving next, probably to Los Angeles and probably towards the end of this year. Then we expect to move north to San Francisco and then back east, probably the Washington DC. Although maybe to a smaller city like maybe up in Connecticut. So that’s what. Then we’ll be back. Then once we do that, once we have those four under our belt, we’ll be able to expand very quickly which I think will be in another year or so from now.

DWB: Well for those us in Miami, we’re waiting for you, so hurry up.[Laughter]

GUEST: I’d love to hear from you and from everybody who is interested and that will help us figure it out.


DWB: Yes. If people want to learn more about your company Lucinda, where can I go to get this information?

GUEST: Well you can get tons of information about us at I would encourage you to sign up for our newsletter if you are all interested, and that would help us be an indication of interest as about what’s the geography of folks or potential customers are in. Then we’ll send you newsletters, you’ll know when we’re coming. You’ll also get our newsletters with basically educational content about how do you eat this way and not just about eating out from our service, but in general, how you eat successfully plant-based.

DWB: Lucinda, thank you so much for joining us today. I really love your efforts to bring healthy and fresh meals to people. I certainly can’t wait when you get down here. Thank you.

GUEST: Absolutely. Well, thank you. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.