Hendersonville – A new WNC eatery is out to balance the never-ending journey for health-conscious meals on the go.
Zen Hen Café brings healthy, honest food to the new quick, counter-service concept.
“This is an idea that has been near and dear to my heart for many years,” said Randy Dunn, executive chef and Zen Hen founder. “We are so excited to finally open and offer something for the entire family that is healthy, quick, and incredibly tasty.”
Located at 1794 Asheville Highway, Zen Hen Café features scratch-made build-your-own Buddha bowls and in-house non-GMO rotisserie chicken.
“I wanted to go back to my roots, go back to the farm,” Dunn said of his new venture. “I wanted my food to speak for itself and to be comfortable, approachable, and affordable for anyone looking for flavor-forward, healthy meals.”
Dunn, a staple in Asheville’s restaurant scene, was part of the opening team for Roux in Biltmore Park in 2009. He continued to serve the community as the executive chef for both the independent restaurant and the four-diamond Hilton hotel for over a decade.
“I’m excited to let my feathers back out, per se, and really focus on a menu that fills the need for so many people in our community right now,” Dunn said.
The Zen Hen menu features build-your-own Buddha Bowls with fresh vegetables, house-roasted chicken, and scratch-made sauces–or choose from an array of signature bowls like the Chimichurri Chicken, a Buddha Bowl featuring brown rice, rotisserie chicken, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, chili-lime corn, jalapenos, and a house-made chimichurri sauce.
The Hen menu highlights whole, half, and quarter hormone- and antibiotic-free, non-GMO rotisserie chickens and family dinners with health-conscious homemade side dishes.
The menu is intentionally gluten-free, and health-centric transparency is one of the overarching missions of the café. All nutrition information is available and tracked for each protein, fat, and carbohydrate.
“I think one of the most unique parts of Zen Hen is in our transparency,” Dunn said. “I’ve tried all the meal prepping, Keto, Paleo, and they all worked to a degree, but I am so busy that it was hard to take the time to meal prep every day, and I needed options that were quicker and more budget friendly.”
As a classically trained chef, Dunn draws much of his culinary inspiration from his childhood. His father, a dairy farmer, raised the family on their ten-acre farm in Tennessee where they grew and harvested the majority of their own meals.
Dunn went on to graduate from the prestigious Johnson and Wales Culinary School and to open national four-diamond hotels, including MIT Cambridge where he once cooked for perennial culinary icon Julia Childs.
“I feel like I bring a piece with me from all of my past culinary experiences, but I always want my food to speak for itself,” Dunn said.
Dunn said that he hopes Zen Hen Café will fill the need for health-conscious families in the area looking for everyday meals that are not so “everyday.”
“Someone once told me that how you live today is how you live your life,” said Dunn. “It’s those choices that you make every day, and hopefully this restaurant is going to make it easier to make those choices that matter.”
It’s good food to put you in a better mood—or as Dunn jokingly says, “You would cross the road for this.” For more information on Zen Hen Café, visit www.zenhencafe.com.