Cauliflower Queen Wins Contest and Nabs a Spot on Claudette’s Menu


The burgeoning culinary scene here in Rockaway is nothing new to locals, and those seeking healthy choices know the artisan eatery, Cuisine by Claudette at 143 Beach 116th Street with its wholesome, earth-conscious foods, juice and smoothie bar, is a great option.

But early this year, loyal Claudette customer, foodie and self-described health nut, Jessica Lepore saw a gap in the market, including at Claudette’s. What the peninsula was missing, she noticed, was a place offering the latest trend in healthy eating: cauliflower rice bowls. 

“There was nowhere on the peninsula to grab a riced cauliflower bowl,” Lepore said.  “I was making them at home but couldn't find them anywhere to-go.”

Around that same time in early 2018, Cuisine By Claudette was hosting a ‘new dish contest’ to see what their customers might be craving. For Lepore, it was serendipity. She knew exactly what she’d pitch.  

So one Instagram contest later, with a bit of creative genius sprinkled in, Lepore’s signature dish, the Jessicauli Cauliflower Bowl was named a winner and made its debut on the menu in February, and it’s been a runaway hit ever since.     

“The Jessicauli bowl sells out every time,” John Efrati, manager at Claudette’s said.  “It’s a huge favorite. Ever since we put it on the menu, we can’t seem to make enough of them.”

That yummy goodness even caught the eye, and taste buds, of Gothamist reporter, Scott Lynch.  

In his June 1 article in Gothamist, “Your Summer Guide To Riis Park Beach Food 2018,” Lynch singled out Lepore’s bowl stating, “...the single best thing I’ve eaten over two weeks of beach-feasting here was a cauliflower rice bowl from a local outfit, Cuisine by Claudette. 

Called the Jessicauli, it’s a hefty container of cauliflower rice, chunks of roasted lemon chicken, toasted chickpeas, a generous helping of feta and a sweet vinaigrette. This is light, lively, and delicious.”

“I was so excited to win the contest and see my bowl on their menu,” Lepore said. “And to see the Gothamist article mention the Jessicauli bowl, wow, that was awesome.”

A few years ago, cauliflower rice was virtually unknown, and when it first made its appearance, there was confusion. Was it rice? Was it cauliflower? Was it a combination of rice and cauliflower?

This once yawn-inspiring cruciferous vegetable, pulsed down to fine granules is so versatile that it quickly shot to stardom as a popular alternative to carbs. Those tiny bits of deliciousness can be used as pizza crust and in place of traditional rice in a myriad of dishes. A healthy choice, one cup of cauliflower has 25 calories per cup compared to 218 calories for a cup of brown rice and it’s loaded with vitamins —  C, K, B6 and folate, so it’s quite appealing as a base for clean cooking.

Allstate insurance agent by day, and avid baker by night with a flair for the unusual, this isn’t the first time Lepore’s snagged a first place win in the culinary world. In 2017, at the 29th annual Applefest in Warwick, NY - the largest festival in Orange County, attracting an estimated 35,000 visitors, that year- she nabbed the grand prize ribbon for her sumptuous, homemade apple pie.

So with plenty of summer left on the horizon, pop into Claudette’s at Riis Park, or on Beach 116th Street, and if you mention you’re local, you’ll score a bowl for only ten bucks, a 30 percent discount. But get there early. The Jessicauli sells out every time.

In addition to Cuisine by Claudette’s flagship store at 143 Beach 116th Street, and their location on the Riis Park boardwalk, Claudette is set to open her third shop in the fall of 2018 near the new Arverne by the Sea housing development, The Tides, on Beach 69th Street. 

And yes, the Jessicauli Cauliflower Bowl will be on the menu.