Life in the Kitchen with Carlos Stetzelberg - Rush Bowls
By Natalie K. Pollock
In the former J. Foster’s ice cream building at 894 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury, Carlos Stetzelberg began making healthy fruit bowls and smoothies, as well as a Bow Wow bowl for dogs, when he opened in June of 2021. This location is the second one for Carlos and his wife Arzu, who run a successful business on Front Street in Hartford as well.
The all-natural ingredients, topped with granola, honey or other choices, appeals to customers seeking a healthy alternative for fast casual fare. But some of his earliest visitors were disappointed to find that the owners were not selling ice cream, a tradition in town for many years.
The new Rush Bowls was closed until the end of the pandemic, and the owners choose this location because it offered the ability to sit outside. They did not close their Hartford store because it was convenient for essential workers downtown. So many other food operations were closed at that time, and it became difficult to find healthier food options.
The Stetzelberg couple has lived in the Hartford area for 20 years and have two daughters ages 17 and 14. The family currently calls Farmington their home.
They came to the area so that Arzu could pursue a master’s degree in economics. During those years Carlos was employed in the insurance industry in asset management for non-American customers. His roots are in Spain and Germany.
There were always other things he wanted to do besides working in insurance. A scuba diving accident put him in a wheelchair for a month, and he used that time to plan his next steps.
Q. How did you come to the decision to open a Rush Bowls franchise?
A. I always had a passion to have my own operation, something for me. I then began learning about food intolerances and how devastating they can be. We had some family issues with that and learned how to avoid certain foods to decrease levels of inflammation. This concept helps to turn [that learning] into a reality. I also learned about teenage preferences from my daughters.
Q. How would you describe the cuisine of your business?
A. Our products are meals. In Simsbury people love the bowls and smoothies as a delicious summer treat, but they are also realizing that they fill you up like a meal, so they have been coming back for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Q. As a franchisee, what did you gain from buying a franchise and what do you do on your own?
A. I learned that having a budget is important. But once I understood that, I could see that it could be easily converted to something that tastes great and is also nutritious. I source all of my own local ingredients and products. And the Rush Bowls owners are keen for our input. When I suggested a warmer product for the cold months made with steel-cut oats and almond milk, they let me offer it. It has chia seeds and flax seeds and is topped with fruit, nut butters and honey. It’s my recipe. If I have an idea, it needs to go through a process to show it fits the brand. I am very happy with Rush Bowls and see them as partners. I value what they add. And I look forward to expanding and adding maybe three or more stores.
Editor’s note: Rush Bowls was founded by former Wall Street executive Andrew Pudalov in Boulder, Colorado. Franchising since 2016, the company currently has 33 restaurants operating in 19 states.
Q. What is the most popular dish at Rush Bowls?
A. The Beach Bowl is the most popular. It’s acai with mango and banana. It is popular year-round. There is a misconception about acai. It is very bitter, so you have to eat it with something, not alone. A lot of [operators] do not disclose what they put in an acai bowl. Acai has a lot of potential to grow and become a staple in our diets. I want to help people to move toward healthier choices.
Q. What is your personal favorite at your business?
A. Green Rx. It’s a smoothie made with avocado, matcha, spinach, guava, and coconut milk, but it is possible to substitute ingredients [if you want to add more sweetness for example]. There are no secrets here. We blend everything in front of the customer.
Q. What is the one food preparation technique that everyone should know?
A. Blending versus juicing. In juicing you throw all the fiber away. If there is one thing we can do as a country to improve our health, it would be to add fiber. We do not reach recommended levels. So we should make sure to eat the whole fruit. You can concentrate some ingredients such as kale with juicing and that can be of interest. Juicing is especially good for fighting some kind of sickness.
Q. If you could take any celebrity chef out to dinner, who would it be and where would you take them?
A. Chef Jose Andres (Spanish-born founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen). I would like to ask him about food crises here at home in many school cafeterias: how to make healthy food more accessible and affordable for every neighborhood.
I donated 150 smoothies to nurses at Hartford Hospital and then we did fundraising, one-to-one, so we could give more. And for the Hispanic Council that is teaching 35 families healthy eating, I am giving a voucher when they finish their class related to what they have learned, for a whole family of five.
I would ask Jose Andres how to organize [mass feeding] and I would bring him here to ask him what we could do better.
Q. Do you have a favorite cookbook?
A. I like German baking cookbooks, like Cakes and Baking. I made a Black Forest Cake for my daughter’s birthday, gluten-free. My mom made amazing cakes. It’s all about the ingredients – pure butter, [the best] sugar, etc.
Q. What do you like to cook when having guests to your home?
A. I like making paella for guests. People have to be ready to eat when the dish is at its prime. In the U.S. people usually think the reverse. Paella is always good for a photo.
Rush Bowls is located at 894 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury. (860) 310-4983; rushbowls.com.