Healthy food on the menu for new State College business

Alec Castro, chef, with a selection of meals from Mentor Cuisine.
Alec Castro, chef, with a selection of meals from Mentor Cuisine. Photo provided

Alec Castro has made a series of lifestyle changes in the last year, each one with the end goal to better his life and the lives of others.

Castro and his business partner TJ Turner, who owns Momentum Fitness off Heister Street in State College, launched Mentor Cuisine — an eatery without four walls, a ceiling or seating — on Oct. 4.

Castro, with 20 years of experience in the local fine dining scene, is the chef. Together, they want to redefine what it means to dine.

Mentor Cuisine’s concept is simple — customers place their orders by 6 p.m. Friday for pick-up 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday or pick-up 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday. The meals, they say, are healthier, fresher options compared to fast food and most other joints.

“One thing I’ve found with running a gym is that people and their families want to get in shape, and they’re on board to do it,” Turner said. “The struggle for them is they have to find healthy options.”

Turner and Castro feel others’ pain.

They each have children, and when Turner’s daughter was born four years ago he and his wife hired someone to cook meals for them.

“She always made us good food, but it wasn’t always healthy,” Turner said. “Alec and I talked about it and started talking about this idea. I told him if he could ever do something like that he would be awesome at it.”

Castro thought it made sense.

He will tell you, too, that fitness is 80 percent in the kitchen and 20 percent in the gym.

“The hardest part for people is portion sizing, and we do that for you,” Castro said. “There are other common excuses like convenience. When your partner is also working over 40 hours a week and you’re both keeping the kids busy it gets exhausting.”

Castro had enough of the strenuous lifestyle that was the restaurant industry a year and a half ago. He opted to instead compete and coach mixed martial arts, but nagging injuries sidelined him this summer.

His misfortune presented an opportunity to dive back into the dining industry without having to commit to anyone else’s schedule.

“I didn’t want to go back to a restaurant and get into that again, because it’s not an easy business, especially with kids,” Castro said. “I wanted to raise my daughters correctly and be there for every activity, every sport and every piece of schooling they have. I didn’t want to be in a business that requires you to be there 24/7. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone if I didn’t want to give it 100 percent.”

Mentor Cuisine offers him more flexibility to make his children number one in his life.

“They’re only young once,” Castro said. “With this, I have the freedom to work around what I want to do with them.”

And with Mentor Cuisine, his customers will have more time to enjoy already prepared meals with the family.