What stood out most to Rupak Bhattacharya over the past three years owning a Bergen County dog-walking business was that the mass-produced food that most people were feeding their pets.
It couldn't have been in the animals' best interest, he felt. And besides, the parents seemed concerned, asking Bhattacharya of Westwood about nutrition, digestion issues and even the dog's lack of interest in their usual food.
Bhattacharya realized that most people do care about their dog's nutrition -- but convenience would have to factor in as well.
Earlier this year, Bhattacharya opened Elixir Kitchens after teaming up with pet nutritionists and food-testing laboratories from across the U.S. to bring human-grade elements into pet food. Research indicates that there is a steady increase in the concept of feeding home-cooked meals to pets, the business owner said.
"Given my personal interest in old French cooking methods, where the goal is to preserve the quality and taste of the natural ingredients, we came up with unique 'old school' style of preparing our pet food, which focusses on keeping intact, the nutrient profile of a protein, a vegetable, or an ancient grain to it's fullest extent," Bhattacharya said.
"All meals are handcrafted, to ensure that we physically examine and use each ingredient, under very strict quality guidelines. This is not raw food. We slow cook our stews in very controlled temperatures that allow us to preserve the natural elements of every ingredient during the cooking process.
"Our long-term goal is to become a 'Farm-to-Bowl' pet food company that produce and use most of our ingredients in our own or contracted farms."
The recipes at Elixir Kitchens are designed around thoughtfully-sourced ingredients and cook in small batches only. Sourcing is done in small quantities from local stores one day before producing a batch of food, Bhattacharya explained.
Proteins (beef, chicken, turkey) are USDA Choice graded. Vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, green beans, peas and broccoli) and grains are farm-produced and harvested in the U.S.
All stews and treats from Elixir Kitchens are prepared in the company's River Vale kitchen. Each chef is certified in food-handling, and were taught how to inspect and treat ingredients with respect.
Rosemary is also used in carefully-measured quantities, as the herb is known for promoting heart health, antimicrobial benefits and other beneficial properties. Elixir Kitchens also uses ancient spices like turmeric, which is known for it's anti-inflammatory properties, the owner said.
"A complete and balanced diet is very essential to maintain your pet in good health," Bhattacharya said. "Just like us humans, our pets need protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. They need the nutrition for growth and maintenance, for energy, and perform vital physical functions."
Elixir Kitchens' pet food is available for purchase at Thomaston Feed in River Vale and soon other Bergen County pet stores. Visit the website for more information.
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