Former Miami Heat star Ray Allen and wife Shannon are changing the fast-food industry.
Ray and Shannon Allen’s new restaurant, Grown, serves delicious, nutrient-dense options like fruit smoothies, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and organic free-range chicken.
It was a rainy day in Boston, and Shannon Allen needed something to eat and needed it fast. Her son Walker, recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, had low blood sugar, and with her husband, NBA legend Ray Allen, on the road and four kids in the backseat, there was little she could do.
“Here I am probably nine months pregnant, someone is crying in the backseat, and Walker needs food,” she says. “I look around Route 9, and my options for drive-thru were not good.” Allen is referring of course to the brightly lit, heavily processed fast-food outlets serving billions across the globe, creating a health epidemic here in America.
So Allen called a chef she knew and spent $63 on gluten-free panko-crusted chicken tenders and unsweetened iced tea—a meal that six years later would lead to the new Allen family business: Grown, an organic, farm-to-table fast-food restaurant. “I was so frustrated that I just couldn’t get something delicious and nutrient dense at a drive-thru,” she says. “We’re in a different world six years later. People understand now that what you put in your mouth is a direct representation of how often you visit the doctor’s office.”
Reshaping the world of fast food, Grown, a South Miami neighborhood joint, offers nutritious breakfasts like egg-white omelets, fresh fruit, steel-cut oatmeal, açai bowls, cold-pressed juices, organic frozen smoothies, coffee drinks, and gluten- free and vegan bakery options. There are soups, salads, sandwiches, and wraps for lunch and dinner—all with Paleo, vegan, or gluten-free options—and family-style meals to go, such as an organic free-range rotisserie chicken with three seasonal sides. It’s the kind of meal Shannon needed that day, and the type of societal change that Ray hopes to create moving forward.
Grown changes the dialogue on fast food, which is partly why Ray thinks Miami is the perfect starting point for the company. “This is the opposite of lazy,” he says, noting that people can pick up breakfast at the South Miami location and finish their meal while on their way to work downtown. “It keeps people on the move. This Miami community is a fast-paced community. People here have an active lifestyle, and they want to eat good food.”
It’s the start of something big for the Allens, who plan to expand the Grown concept as much as possible. (“There should be a Grown next to every McDonald’s on the planet,” says Shannon.) While the Miami location will be stocked with produce from local, organic vendors, future sites will have menus based on what is available in each city. The weather in Miami, however, also allows Grown to have an “urban farm” on the restaurant’s rooftop. “If you come in the restaurant, you’ll see someone come in with a tray of arugula that we grew on the roof,” says Shannon.
It also helps that the Allens have a big team in place, turning Grown from concept to reality, including chef Todd Kiley, the man who six years ago made Shannon the organic chicken fingers for Walker.
Ray took notes when traveling over the past six years at every restaurant he visited. “I give suggestions, and there’s feedback, and then everyone discusses it,” he says of the process at Grown—which he admits is 100 percent a team effort. “I’ve played on plenty of teams where sometimes you take the last shot and sometimes you make the pass, and sometimes you don’t even get in the game. It’s important that you understand that you have to be the team player. Everyone has a role.”
It’s a winning concept for the family, which has worked together now for nearly two decades. Shannon made Ray’s pre-game meal for 18 seasons (allowing him to play in 1,300 games) and continues to make sure their five kids eat healthy. “We are a real family,” says Shannon. “That’s why this concept makes so much sense for us, because we need it.”
“We’re not just doing this because someone said it was a good business idea,” adds Ray. “We live it.” 8211 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami