Q&A WITH PETER NOBLE DARROW
Peter Noble Darrow is an entrepreneur who founded Darrow’s Farm Fresh Restaurant in NYC, a farm-to-table restaurant that was well received by customers and critics while in operation. Since the restaurant’s closing, Darrow has begun writing about health pointedly for the Millennial generation. Darrow is the author of “Wise Millennial” (April 2019), a field guide that points Millennials toward growth from the inside out.
Q: Tell us about your journey with Darrow’s Farm Fresh Restaurant. What does eating healthy mean to you? Do you think Millennials are more apt than other generations to care about what they eat?
Oh man, where do I begin? My goal with Darrow’s was simple: empowering people’s lives through better food choices. It was my first business endeavor right out of business school. While I’m very proud of what I built and accomplished, it was a very humbling experience for me. I learned a very valuable lesson which most first-time entrepreneurs fail to recognize: it takes time to gain traction and build a following. I took the “if you build it large, they will come” mentality. Unfortunately, you end skipping many important steps in the process. I gained invaluable knowledge and wisdom from many people throughout that journey, which ultimately laid the groundwork for my upcoming book.
I try to keep things very simple and not overthink too much. To me, “healthy” means eating unprocessed (nothing that comes in a bag unless it’s frozen) whole food. Also, what many people fail to recognize is that how you prepare and cook the food matters more than the food itself. For example, a plain grilled piece of chicken is incredibly nutritious; using a lot of oil and frying it to make it crispy destroys and negates the nutritious value. Another common example is salad dressing; plain balsamic or red wine vinegar is fine! But blue cheese/ranch/1000 island (I don’t care if it’s “light”) quadruples the calorie content without realizing! So for me, it’s really about a reduction in “additives” such as condiments, oil (don’t care what kind), added sugars, simple carbs (think pasta, white bread), etc. Yes, it’s all about balance and trust me I enjoy unhealthy items too on occasion! But you have to look at the big picture and change your whole thinking process regarding food consumption.
I think there is a lot more information (and misinformation!) regarding “healthy” food that’s available to millennials. With the advent of social media, especially Instagram, comes greater social pressure to conform to certain body shapes. I’ll let you be the judge of whether this is a good thing or bad thing that it makes millennials more “aware” of eating healthy. I guess you have to ask yourself, “At what cost?”
Q: What health challenges do you think Millennials face today?
One hundred percent mental health; specifically, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety. While these may be “invisible” issues, they are nonetheless important. Our generation in particular, and the upcoming Generation Z, are so concerned about appearance, status (or the appearance of status?), and being judged by others. Young people love to get caught up in the idea of what I “should be doing” based on other’s expectations. They make decisions to appease their friends and family, rather than for their own self-benefit. They also want immediate gratification and on-demand happiness (like Netflix or Seamless / GrubHub, just order it up!). They are only concerned with the pretty, filtered finished result, but not really interested in the process or many steps it takes in how to achieve it.
Q: How does your book, Wise Millennial, address these challenges and offer practical solutions?
Wise Millennial: A Field Guide to Thriving in Modern Life takes readers on an emotional journey using my own personal experiences to highlight many of the mistakes (and successes!) I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned in the process. It challenges readers to question everything they’ve been taught or values they’re “raised on” and really question whether or not they serve your own interests, or somebody else’s? It addresses many types of situations which can be uncomfortable to discuss, such as privilege, education, religion, food, drinking, dating, emotional vulnerability, to name a few. As with anything in life, my hope is that it forces the reader to open their mind and look at a completely alternative way of living your life (even if just for a nano-second). I can’t do the work for you…..but hopefully can open the door just wide enough for readers to want to investigate further and put in the work themselves.
Q: Do you think we should be concerned for the mental and/or physical health of young people who overuse technology and social media?
I dislike getting political, but absolutely there needs to be a greater sense of urgency here. If you look at the data, teenage suicide, depression, and drug prescriptions have sharply risen over the last decade. It’s hard to gauge “general happiness” but I can just tell you, having done extensive personal research among my own peer group and in conversations, it’s extremely pervasive even if it hasn’t yet reached the point of debilitating.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your meditation practices and what they’ve done for your overall health?
I was introduced to meditation through a community called mediclub/the big quiet about 3 years ago. It has given me a lot of clarity and perspective, by giving me mental tools to separate my feelings and ego from objective fact. It has enabled me to focus on self-care and self-love, have compassion for others (even people that cause me stress or anger), focus on being “present” and hyper-aware of my surroundings, and generally appreciative of the gift of life and the power of breathing to calm me down in tense situations. I highly recommend it.
Q: Any last thoughts on how Millennials can access mindfulness? How can they fit self-reflection among college classes, jobs, etc.?
Mindfulness, like anything, comes with practice. It’s a tool. Think of it like training a muscle; the more you exercise it, the more easily you can access it when needed. It doesn’t have to be direct meditation (although I do highly recommend doing things in-person and finding your local meditation studio, if it exists!), otherwise apps like headspace are great! I think we often do things “because that’s what we’re supposed to be doing”, without really thinking first about why we are doing them. Am I signing up for this class because I’m really interested in the subject, or because my parents told me I should? Am I applying for this job because it sounds sexy and will impress others when they ask me what I do, or do I actually enjoy all the nitty-gritty details of the day-to-day work? I think by being intentional with our actions, we will ultimately create happiness through the situations and people we surround ourselves with. But this first requires you developing a healthy, strong “sense of self” and thinking about who you are, what’s important to you, and what kind of people you want to associate with. Remember, you create your own reality. Until you do that first step, however, nothing else will matter.
Peter N. Darrow is a Millennial, a native New Yorker, an entrepreneur, and an expert at learning from his mistakes. After earning an MBA in entrepreneurship from Babson College in 2014, Peter founded Darrow’s Farm Fresh restaurant in Union Square in NYC. A health and wellness entrepreneur with a passion for helping people, Peter has already seen much in the way of success and failure, and speaks to the challenges facing his generation, and dispels myths about what it’s like to supposedly “have it all.” Find out more about Peter at www.wisemillennial.com.