– Words by David Wylie Photography by Darren Hull
X – Specializing in fitness-focused, high-protein, low-carb gourmet meals, BLK BOX opened in November in Kelowna’s Landmark District.
X – Surrounded by office towers, it’s perfectly located for people to pop in and pick up a quick dish—or stock up on a week’s worth of prepped meals.
X – There is a limited amount of seating for those who want to eat inside.
X – BLK BOX was founded by Greg Sebell and Lonni van Diest. They met while working for Third Space Cafe. Greg brings marketing and creative direction skills to the table, while Lonni brings years of experience as a restaurant consultant and regional and general manager.
X – Greg previously worked full-time in the music industry for nearly two decades as a two-time Juno award-winning singer-songwriter.
We asked Greg Sebell:
What’s your vision for BLK BOX?
Lonni van Diest and I talked about bringing a healthy concept to the Landmark District. We both work out a lot and we both had experienced the pains of doing meal prep every weekend. It’s typically a lot of work, not to mention the time it takes to shop, prep, cook and clean up. You can only get so creative and we got tired of eating the same meals like rice, broccoli and chicken. We thought, “What if we could create healthy fast food and also have a meal-prep element with meals we were excited about eating?”
What is the philosophy behind your food?
We try to hack our favourite meals that we would want to eat if we weren’t trying to watch our macros and calories. We tried to come up with meals that we just wanted to eat no matter what, then we brought down the calories as low as possible and raised the protein as high as possible. We want to make healthy food and fitness fun and accessible—not intimidating or overwhelming.
How do you develop your menu?
Lonni and I worked closely with Andrea McClintock (Bouchons, Salt & Brick) to develop the menu. We also worked with Michael Buffett at Start Fresh on developing a few dessert items. We work with local chefs and local personal trainers. Our menu is primarily high protein, low carb and low fat. We focused on that model because good protein is the most difficult to find—especially when you are on the go. We also have a few keto dishes and we have a good number of plant-based dishes as well.
Where do your ingredients come from?
We try to source locally as much as possible and are always looking for new local vendors we can partner with. Our eggs are locally sourced from a farm down the road. We work with our Landmark District neighbours Start Fresh and their farm, Wise Earth Farms. We also use Stoke Juice out of Kimberley and all of our frozen berries and juices for smoothies. All of our baking is also done in-house, made from scratch.
What sets BLK BOX apart?
I think what sets us apart is, firstly, that we create meals to fit your lifestyle. The meals are pre-made and pre-cooked, so you can take them to go and warm them up or pre-order them for the week. We can also warm it up if you’re just looking for a quick bite on your lunch break. We are also unique in that we specifically focus on food for health and fitness. For so long food and fitness seemed to be at odds. The food doesn’t have to taste good, it just has to get results. That could mean dry egg whites or ground turkey with hot sauce on it. We wanted to put some love into fitness food and make it something people can really look forward to every day. You can have your cake and eat it too; in our case, it’s going to be lower in calories and zero sugar.
How does the restaurant’s cuisine fit with the branding?
We wanted to make it accessible and not intimidating to your average person. Whether you’re on year 15 of your fitness journey or on day three, and you’re still not sure what to eat, we wanted this brand to be inviting and a little bit familiar. The space is simple, uncluttered and minimal—just like the menu. Macros and calories on each dish are clearly laid out and there is no confusing diet plan. Just simple, good ingredients. The minimal branding also informs how we plate the dishes. Obviously, we start with a black meal prep container (hence the name BLK BOX) and then try to plate a beautiful meal from there.
What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
Swerve—it’s a natural sugar substitute with zero calories, zero net carbs and it’s non-glycemic, which means it does not raise your blood sugar. We created a zero-sugar NY cheesecake with Chef Michael from Start Fresh using Swerve. We also use it in our Twix bars which people can’t get enough of. It’s not an inexpensive ingredient by any means, but it’s a huge win for those of us with a sweet tooth.
What is your go-to meal when you’re low on time?
Spaghetti squash and meatballs. That’s something I made at home all the time. The nice thing about using something like spaghetti squash instead of real pasta—even though I love pasta—is you feel lighter after, you don’t feel the weight of that.
What is the best recent food trend?
People are looking for higher-quality food. They’re looking for locally farmed ingredients. When the ingredients are high-quality and fresh, even the simplest of dishes are going to be delicious because the components are delicious to begin with. When it comes to the food you put into your body, you’re going to reap what you sow. Simple, whole ingredients, locally sourced where possible—those are really great food trends in my opinion.
What is a simple piece of advice for pairing food and fitness?
Plan ahead—when you don’t have a plan and you don’t think ahead you’re going to end up at the McDonald’s drive-thru.
What’s the significance of your location in the Landmark District?
Initially, Ken Stober of the Stober Group (and founder of Third Space Cafe) had asked Lonni about the potential of putting a healthy option in this retail space that had recently become available. It was important for the Stober Group and it was something that Lonni was passionate about too. While Lonni was exploring ideas in the early stages, he and I had coffee and from there we realized we could build something really special and unique together. We had both worked in the Landmark District for a while, and like many of the others in these office towers, we had limited time and limited options when it came to convenient, healthy food. Factor in that most of the gyms in the city are within a five-minute radius of us—it was a perfect location.