Food & Thought 1 and Food & Thought 2: Organics in the Oakes Family of StoresJul 30, 2022 04:54PM ● By Linda Sechrist
Although Frank Oakes, Naples beloved Obi-Wan Kenobi of organic gardening and sustainability, boarded the last starship for the great beyond in 2013, his legacy lives on. Not only in his “militantly organic, so you can shop in peace” philosophy at the Food & Thought general store and café in the Gateway of Naples plaza, but also in the continued growth of the grassroots organic movement he cultivated.
Thanks to Alfie Oakes of Oakes Farms and Seed to Table, who carries on his father’s organic tradition at Food & Thought 1 (F&T1), the movement is gaining more momentum. Aimed at pleasing discriminating diners that have been yearning for a local full-service restaurant with a totally organic menu prepared with locally sourced ingredients free of fertilizers, pesticides and GMOs, the new Food & Thought 2 (F&T2) will give vegans, vegetarians, omnivores and pescatarians a premier sit-down dining experience for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Adding to the ambiance is a well-stocked outdoor bar with some organic liquors, live music and a pizza oven.
The new F&T2 restaurant, owned by Oakes, Anthony High, of Marjon Specialty Foods, and Randy Johns of Phoenix Associates of Florida is located in the Fountain Park Retail center at 7941 Airport Road. The restaurant and the organic store will occupy two 6,000-square-foot buildings that are separated by a large courtyard with decks for seating and a firepit. According to General Manager and Executive Chef Dan Kniola, who recently served as executive chef at Players Club & Spa, in Lely Resort, the food is white-tablecloth quality, with high-end preparations made from scratch. Kniola’s culinary team includes five members that have worked as executive chefs at other area restaurants or country clubs.
Oakes compares the four stores, which includes Oakes Farm Market and Seed to Table, which has a F&T organic department, to a family of different brothers and sisters with the same DNA, but different personalities. The new market, which will open in time for the upcoming season, will be very similar to F&T1 with some of the same characteristics, such as a juice and coffee bar.
Frank Oakes’ spirit and commitment to bringing back full flavor food with nutritious value carries on in the hearts and minds of the Food & Thought team he mentored. Referring to themselves as more like a family than a workforce, many of his carefully selected hires that in 2005 helped him open the first location are still there today. From preparing quality menu items and keeping shelves full of fresh produce, dry goods and supplements to whirling smoothies in blenders and pressing fresh juices, making specialty coffees and serving organic wines and beers, longtime customers still recognize familiar faces and appreciate customer service that comes with a genuine smile.
Kitchen magician Freedom Teague at F&T1 and the core members of her food preparation team that fire up the grills and ovens, whip up the recipes, wash the pots and pans and keep the café in the Gateway location spotless have been with her from the earliest days. “Our philosophy is that if we’re going to work long hours, we want to be in a wholesome environment, working for someone that appreciates us and with people that we enjoy being around. In 17 years, there have been bumps in the road, but we’re like a family that sticks together,” says Teague.
Some of the time-tested recipes Teague wrote with Oakes in the Food & Thought: Home Cookin’ the Healthy Way cookbook remain on the F&T1 menu, along with newer items. “Customers that have been eating here two and three times a week for years sometimes call me requesting new menu items. We oblige just as Frank would have. He created something special that keeps people passionate about working here. We’re all about a healthy lifestyle, and we continue to uphold Frank’s goal to make everyone who works and shops here, and now at F&T2, a heathier and more self-reliant person.”
Teague notes that the present remodeling project covering the opening to the kitchen which will give a fresh new look to the registers and service counter is the answer to another growth spurt. “While we keep growing and changing, the quality and the flavors of our food never change, because we don’t skimp on anything. Only the best ingredients go into our recipes.”
“During summer months, we primarily source our fresh produce and organic meats from Amish farmers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as well as organic farms across the U.S., especially in California and some in Mexico,” says Health & Wellness department manager Michael Monteleone, who started with F&T1 in 2005 two days after Hurricane Wilma. “There was no electricity. Frank said that if I hadn’t had breakfast, I could help myself and cook some eggs on the gas-powered stove. Looking back on our humble beginnings, our store was much smaller then. Starbucks was still on the front corner, where our store first expanded to, and the Boater’s World store which now houses Thoughtful Threads was directly across the courtyard. Several years later, we took over three other adjacent stores and last year we moved the coffee and wine bar outdoors as part of the courtyard. Loyal customers and increased local demand have allowed us to grow steadily.”
Explaining that the founding of F&T1 was totally related to Frank’s conversion, Monteleone says, “Frank was the organic prophet who awakened people to how compromised our food system is and what Big Ag has done to our soil with chemical fertilizers. While he grew up in the 50’s under the illusion of ‘better living through chemistry’, he came full circle due to a confluence of events. One was his wife Wendy’s diagnosis of Addison’s disease, which was traced to the chemicals on the clothes Frank wore while farming. He was adamant that farmers didn’t need chemicals and genetically modified seeds.”
Jesus Blas, assistant store manager at F&T1, arrived in 2007. “What’s happening now is very exciting. Still a small business in 2007, we couldn’t procure as much organic anything as we can now. We were and are such a unique concept, especially now that a lot of the menu items are picked on our farm and delivered direct to our restaurants.”
Intending to carry over to the new location the kind of energy that people have long enjoyed at F&T1, James Livaccari, F&T2 assistant store manager, who previously worked at F&T1 as a raw food chef, notes the differences between the two—the full-service restaurant, outdoor bar and pizza oven. “The concept is for each location to complement the other. A great feature of the new market, now under construction, will be a full gluten-free bakery where everything is made from scratch. When the bakery is operational, we can source our other stores,” advises Livaccari, who adds that future advertisements will differentiate both locations with F&T1 and F&T2 so people know the difference.
Surely, from whatever vantage point Frank’s soul might be viewing his legacy, he has to be smiling.
Food & Thought1 is located at 2132 Tamiami Trl. N., in Naples. For more information call 239-213-2222 or visit FoodandThought.com.
Food & Thought2 is located in Fountain Park Retail center at 7941 Airport Rd., in Naples. For more information call 239-791-3663 or visit FoodandThought2.com.
Oakes Farm Market is located at 2205 Davis Blvd., in Naples. For more information call 239-732-0144 or visit OakesFarms.com.
Seed to Table is located at 4835 Immokalee Rd., in Naples. For more information call 239-310-7333 or visit OakesFarms.com.
100% Organic Cafe, Juice Bar, Grocery & Clothing Store Established in 2004, Food and Thought offers only the highest quality organic produce and groceries, fresh juices, real milksha... Read More »