Rocky Alexander has his more than 30,000 Facebook friends to thank for his new venture: a fast casual healthy eatery called Rock’s Kitchen, opening March 4 in Stony Point.
The longtime Rockland resident — he and his family live not far from his new restaurant — credits the group for helping him realize that if you believe in yourself, anything can happen.
Owning a restaurant — with himself as the chef — is something he never would have imagined. Or even dreamed.
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That’s because five years ago he was working at a bank, with a side business as a DJ, and struggling with his weight. A longtime dieter, he had tried every plan known to man (his words) to no avail. Adding to the stress: At 340 pounds, the father of two was dealing with serious health issues including Type 2 diabetes and borderline high blood pressure.
That’s when he opted for bariatric weight loss surgery, posting his experiences — and new heart-healthy recipes — on Facebook.
“I think I had about 20 friends (on Facebook) at the time,” he said. “But through word of mouth, the page started growing.”
The closed group Rock’s Kitchen (he since has another, open-to-all under Rock’s Kitchen Stony Point) began exploding over the next few years as Alexander started speaking out about his bariatric surgery and weight loss experience.
“That’s when I got my epiphany,” he said. “To quit my job, which I didn’t like, and do something more aligned with my new lifestyle.”
A self-taught chef who had always cooked, albeit calorie-laden meals like chicken stuffed with ham or ham stuffed with chicken, he realized people needed help — as he did — to retrain his brain on how to cook differently.
So, a year ago, he asked 10 local friends — people he knew — to try his food for free with the added bonus of saying he’d personally deliver it to them. “They loved it,” he said. “And that led to 10 more people and 10 more.”
For 12 months he ran a business out of a commercial kitchen in Newburgh before deciding, after many conversations with his wife, Michelle, that opening a storefront made sense.
The goal with Rock’s Kitchen, he said, is to help people eat healthier and feel good about what they’re eating. The cheery space, designed with light woods and bright orange chairs, features signs with phrases such as “Keep Trying,” “You Got This” and “Believe in Yourself.”
The restaurant’s motto, written on the menus and on a side panel in the 16-seat eatery is “Weight loss starts in the kitchen.”
That means Alexander uses low sodium chicken broth instead of oil, tamari instead of soy sauce, zoodles (zucchini noodles) and either cauliflower or quinoa instead of rice. He’s even experimenting with something called cloud bread which is low carb, low fat and gluten-free. Alexander describes it as whipped cream cheese that goes in the oven and is a great alternative to bread.
“I think people like seeing a regular guy be able to take a meal, twist it up and plate it, and it still has that taste,” he said. “You don’t have to sacrifice flavor here. And you still get to have your pizza and your lasagna; we’ve just taken out the bad carbs and put in the good ones.”
Among his signature dishes: “Rocky’s Slaw,” crisp slaw sauteed with onions, carrots and mushrooms with a protein on top (or not); fried rice prepared with cauliflower rice, onions, peas and carrots with a tamari-based sauce; and pizza with a chicken crust. Also on the menu: a variety of smoothies, salads, loaded stuffed peppers, acai bowls and lettuce wraps. There will also be seasonal specials.
All entrees come with info on the approximate calorie count.
Down the road, Alexander hopes to add a delivery service for lunch as well as cooking classes for kids. Also on the horizon: a meal prep service. For now, he’s reserved Sundays as the day for meal prep pickups, meaning customers can walk in on a Sunday and get meals for four or six to go.
“People hear the word ‘healthy’ and think it won’t taste good,” said Alexander. “I’m all about proving them wrong and teaching them a new way to approach food.”
If you go
Rock’s Kitchen opens March 4. It is located at 170 S. Liberty Drive, Stony Point, in the Aldi Shopping Center. The phone is 845-558-8888, rockskitchen-rk.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: With support of 30,000 Facebook friends, Stony Point resident opens heart-healthy restaurant