Surf’s Up for Playa
As surfers pursuing their version of The Endless Summer throughout Central America, Hawaii, and California, alumnus Robert Giuliani and his partner, Abby Taylor, loved sampling every surf town’s version of an acai or pitaya bowl. Returning to their homes at the Jersey Shore, Giuliani CC’06 and Taylor wanted to recreate, with a twist, their favorite recipes from the road. In 2013, after arranging with a pizza shop owner to use space in front of his restaurant, they ferried a blender, a card table, and an inventory of fresh acai, pitaya, coconut, chia, banana, and oatmeal onto the sidewalk in Belmar, New Jersey, and whipped up their concoctions to hand out to passersby. With that, Playa Bowls was born, and menu favorites such as the Pura Vida Acai Bowl, the Nutella Acai Bowl, and the Electric Mermaid Pitaya Bowl have driven the company’s growth to more than 100 franchises nationwide, the majority of them in New Jersey. Visit playabowls.com.
As an avid body builder with a doctorate in food science, alumnus Juan Salinas had long wanted to create a healthy snack to complement his lifestyle. After 20 years working as a snack developer for companies such as Nabisco and Kraft, he started his own business, Perfect Life Nutrition, in 2015 and came up with P-nuff Crunch, a high-protein, low-sugar plant-based snack that is a good source of fiber. In October 2020, Salinas CC’91, GSNB’94,’00 appeared on the popular television show Shark Tank to plug P-nuff Crunch and raise money. Halfway through his pitch, Salinas ripped off his lab coat to reveal a perfectly sculpted torso and then flexed his biceps before the judges. Mark Cuban, who earlier had devoured a bag of P-nuff Crunch that his wife brought home from the health food store, ponied up $400,000 for a 25 percent stake in the company. “I’m going to change your life,” Cuban told Salinas, a native of Honduras. “We’re going to make a lot of money.” Visit pnuff.com.
A Scarlet Grind
Eric LeGrand tried his very first cup of coffee last August. Later this year, the former Scarlet Knights football player is opening LeGrand Coffee House in his hometown of Woodbridge, New Jersey. Although he took a quick liking to coffee, the impetus for opening his café is his desire to create the vibe where people feel welcome to hang out and enjoy some conversation and coffee. He calls the setting “the third place,” a destination that isn’t home and isn’t work. LeGrand SAS’14, who was paralyzed in 2010 making a tackle, opened an online store for his coffee products in January. A football analyst on Scarlet Knights radio broadcasts and public speaker, he remains an inspiration for his unfailing optimism and charitable contributions through Team LeGrand, which works with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to support research and quality-of-life initiatives for people with spinal cord injuries.Visit legrandcoffeehouse.com.
A World of Chocolate
As the menswear product-development director for Macy’s, alumna Miléne Jardine traveled the world overseeing trends, sourcing, and development for the retailer’s clothing lines. Little could she have anticipated that her forays to dozens of nations would be a source of inspiration after making a mid-career change in 2016 to become a chocolate maker. Today, Jardine RC’04, RBS’04 is the proprietor of Miléne Jardine Chocolatier, a high-end line of chocolates distinguished in taste because of ingredients such as herbs, spices, and chocolate from around the world like Taiwanese-inspired black plum (the Elixir) and a Norwegian-influenced beer/cloudberry option (the Lionheart). Given the pandemic’s psychic toll on an anxious public, her truffles, bars, and gift sets have provided a small slice of wanderlust and necessary indulgence. Miléne Jardine Chocolatier, based in Queens, New York, fulfills Jardine’s childhood passion for creating desserts that had dovetailed, after graduating from Rutgers with a marketing degree, with moonlighting to make chocolate favors and centerpieces for special occasions. Visit milenejardine.com.