Posted by: Date: March 30, 2011 In:

Busy dad envisions healthy ‘Plan B’ for parents

Just like so many other families, Peter Gradwohl ’90 and his wife, Andrea, once struggled to balance busy work schedules with the stress of providing healthy food for their three kids. So, three years ago, with people like themselves in mind, the Gradwohls launched Fantazimo, a Seattle-based company that packs well-balanced lunches for local school kids. “I kind of had an ah-ha moment,” Peter Gradwohl said, “when I was making three lunches.”

Creating options every day was no easy task. Especially for the Gradwohl’s youngest son, Major, who suffers from Celiac disease, an intolerance to gluten.

Gradwohl began seriously thinking about convenient alternatives to packing lunches every day. Fantazimo Foods was the solution. In partnership with the Seattle catering firm Gretchen’s Shoebox Express, parents can order lunches online by 4 p.m. and lunches will be delivered to schools and camps the next day.

Fantazimo currently offers seven different entree selections, including a barbeque chicken wrap, a chicken and cheddar sandwich, and sides such as apple wedges, carrot sticks and string cheese. Each lunch comes with an entrée, a vegetable, fruit, protein and a bottle of water. Lunches are available in two sizes: Varsity ($4.99 plus tax) and Junior Varsity ($4.57 plus tax). Fantazimo has delivered its food to more than 65 schools in the past two years. Gradwohl describes Fantazimo as a “Plan B” for parents.

“We’re not there to replace mom and dad,” says Gradwohl. “We’re a backup.” At Fantazimo, Gradwohl works with several other former Lutes, including Elaina Dulaney ’90, Larry Knudsen ’81, and Michael “Elmo” Wright ’90.

Gradwohl said the connections he made while at PLU have “really been a huge help.” Knudsen serves as a business advisor to Gradwohl. Wright helps with Fantazimo’s Web site. And Dulaney helps with the company’s marketing. Dulaney, who like Gradwohl, has a son with Celiac disease, says one of Fantazimo’s great values is its ability to supply nutritious lunches to children who have special dietary needs.

“It’s great to know I can order a lunch that’s safe,” said Dulaney.

Gradwohl grew up in Edmonds, graduated in 1986 from Woodway High School, where he played football. He also played football at PLU. In addition to sports, Gradwohl also participated in PLU’s student media. He wrote for the Mooring Mast and hosted a radio show. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

Reflecting on his experiences at PLU, Gradwohl mentions participating in the football program under Frosty Westering and making new friends as being among his warmest memories.

“I made the best friends of my life, who I still talk to every day,” Gradwohl said. “The Godparents of my kids are my friends from PLU.”

After PLU, Gradwohl married Andrea in 1995. They have three children: Max, 12, Sophie, 9, and Major, 6.

Today, Gradwohl oversees Fantazimo’s day-to-day operations. He meets with schools, works on product development, and maintains the company’s Website. He hopes Fantazimo can expand and provide nutritious lunch options to more parents and children in the region.

“We want to be there for parents,” Gradwohl said. “We want parents to know wherever their kid is at, we can deliver them a lunch.”