Years ago, if you had asked Nick Dedier if he would be cooking food that’s gluten free, made without refined sugar or flour, and mostly vegan, he wouldn’t have believed it. He did, after all, run Bouchon and helm fried chicken concept at Ad Hoc, on top of owning Milestone restaurant in El Dorado Hills and two fried chicken spots. Yet, Dedier and partner Alexa Hazelton are betting on their new restaurant Almighty Food Co. as a beacon of healthy eating that doesn’t restrict itself in terms of flavor, using sustainably sourced meats and vegetables — and they’re closing down the El Dorado Hills location of their popular fried chicken restaurant, Mom & Pop Chicken Shop, to do it.
The switch to a healthier way of eating first came at the request of family members and friends, who asked him to create recipes that adhered to their specific diets. Later, a personal health scare led Dedier to go almost all vegetarian; he began avoiding refined sugars and flour and only leaning on grass fed meat on the rare occasions when he’d eat animal protein. “I did zero to prepare for it and to be perfectly honest with you, I 100 percent hated it, it was awful,” Dedier says. “I found very little joy in trying to avoid things — I was trying to cook with avoidance instead of joy. My meals became boring.”
That direction changed when Dedier says his friend asked him to help with the opening a South American restaurant; through the food, he found a cuisine that showed him how to incorporate more flavor, but without the ingredients and foods he was trying to avoid. He discovered the “firsthand love of food really stemmed from the use of very fresh vegetables and tons of spice, and was something that I really enjoyed,” Dedier says. “It took that previous experience of absolute panic avoidance into, ‘How can I apply this into other things?’”
Dedier says he then threw himself into learning how to find flavor without leaning on old fallbacks like refined sugar or butter. “It forces you to color within the lines and get really creative,” Dedier says. “I will admit I really enjoyed the creative process of starting to develop some of these recipes with a mind for flavor, and not just the mind for macros and nutrients.” Out of those recipes come the backbone of Almighty Food Co. The menu currently breaks down to 70 percent vegetarian options, 90 percent gluten-free, and 20 percent vegan, all without the use of flour or refined sugars.
Among the recipes offered at Almighty, which is set to open at the end of July, is a mix of updated healthy standards like salads and sandwiches, to protein-rich dinners. There’s a chilled broccolini “Caesar” salad, for instance; an everything bagel with housemade spread, red onion, crispy capers, hard egg, and dressed baby kale; a seasonal salad, comes with the unusual mix of baby kale tossed with avocado, beets, granny smith apples, pepitas, blueberries, and onion, with an apple cider vinaigrette; roasted shrimp come tossed in garlic and red chili ghee. For heartier fare, there’s the Kingston jerk chicken and shrimp, which Dedier personally favors, served with a pineapple relish and black beans over turmeric quinoa; a wagyu meat and potatoes dish also makes its way onto the menu with meat from Sonny’s Farm, along with sweet potato, broccolini, a soft egg, crispy chickpeas, and balsamic chimichurri.
The beverage selection from Hazelton will feature a number of local wines and beers, but there’s also a number of nonalcoholic options, such as some housemade sodas employing Liquid Death sparkling water into flavors like ginger and local honey, blueberry and cream, as well as shakes and juice. Beyond the nutritious portions of the menu, the drinks and food are centered around the community by using plenty of local products and producers, from incorporating local honey from Resting Bee Face to make the drinks, purchasing gluten-free bread from Flourless Bakery in Placerville, to purchasing meat from regenerative and sustainable Sonny’s Farm. “We decided to take that space and put our intention to serve this food to our community and family and friends on a very small scale, with hyper, 100 percent focus and intention on our mission to feed ourselves well and properly, and share it with the community,” Dedier says. “I can’t tell you if it’s a gamble or not, or if it’s going to be an anecdote that I tell you in 20 years if it worked out or not, but I believe in it.”
Almighty Food Co. (4355 Town Center Blvd, El Dorado Hills) debuts in late July.