By Leslie Gray Streeter The Daytona Beach News-Journal
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Jenny Goldfarb's "Unreal Deli Brand" of meatless corned beef impressed "Shark Tank's" Mark Cuban so much, he offered her $250,000 for a 20% ownership of the company.
To many foodies, the idea of veganism - a diet without any animal products - might not be so bad, if it wasn't for the part where they had to give up their favorite foods, especially those strongly identified with their culture and childhood.
Jenny Goldfarb was born in Manhattan, which, she says, gives her "claim to New York delicatessen roots" and grew up in Boca Raton, which brought her in close proximity to many eateries that center on those flavors. So she knew it was as tough sell to convince fans of Jewish delicacies like corned beef to eat something that evoked those memories that had no beef in it whatsoever.
"I grew up eating tons of real deli," says Goldfarb, whose Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Deli brand of meatless corned beef is available online and at 101 locations nationwide. Those locations include Vegan Fine Foods at 330 SW 2nd St. in Fort Lauderdale and, in August, Ben's Kosher Delicatessen at 9942 Clint Moore Rd. in Boca.
Goldfarb's turn to veganism a decade ago after watching Facebook videos about the fate of farmed animals through "lots of tears" inspired Goldfarb, who now lives in Los Angeles with her family, to try to recreate those flavors while honoring her traditions and those homey, familiar bites.
And with the help of "Shark Tank" entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who offered her $250,000 for a 20% ownership of the company on the ABC show, "it was off to the races." She says the product is popularly sold at delis as part of a Reuben sandwich, with coleslaw, or sometimes as pastrami.
Goldfarb had no formal cooking training - she has a degree in marketing from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and worked for a pharmaceutical company before getting married and becoming a mother.
But familiarity with these foods was "kind of a thing, with Jewish mothers begging you to eat more, to have another bite, to have another entree," she says. "I always had a love for cooking, and I ate plenty of deli meat."
She says that when she first broached the idea of going vegetarian, meaning eating animal products like eggs and dairy but no meat with her husband, he said he'd consider it if she could "make (her food) just as delicious." And when Goldfarb decided to go "totally vegan" after watching more animal advocacy videos, her husband "was even less thrilled," she says.
But when she created her version of corned beef out of "hearty veggies like beets, chickpeas and tomatoes" and a protein-rich product called vital wheat gluten "that gives it a binder and meaty texture," her family was more convinced. This includes Goldfarb's in-laws, "who thought I was taking the family on some crazy hippie crusade."
What makes her non-beef seem legit, she says, is the "complex spice blend" in the brine, "that makes it close to the real thing." So close, in fact, that in a video on her website, she fools several "older Jewish ladies" in a taste test. In addition to its product line, which includes crumbled and flavored versions of the original corned beef slices and slabs, the company is launching a roasted turkey product, she says.
The popularity of the Unreal Corned Beef lets Goldfarb know that she's on the right track, she says. "When you can walk in - not in COVID times - to a old-school deli and see the old pictures on the wall, and order a vegan meal? That's delicious."
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.