This is the story of a pro-athlete-turned-chef, a worthy cause, and a fast-casual salad shop. Or rather, 34 Mad Greens salad shops that, as of today, are selling new limited-time items—a ginger lemonade, a Moroccan-style Caesar salad, and a vegan grain bowl—that are tasty, fresh, and created by a Boulder chef. And by eating them, you’ll help hungry children across the United States.

During the winter of 2016, Boulder-based cyclist/chef Lentine Alexis met former Mad Greens “Head Lettuce Juggler” (and co-founder) Lucas Clarke at a Chef Cycle event. They and hundreds of other chefs completed a 300-mile ride to raise more than $2 million for No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit that fights childhood hunger through free school meals, nutrition education, and legislative advocacy.

On the road, Alexis and Clarke got to know each other, eventually deciding to collaborate in a new way on behalf of No Kid Hungry: Alexis would create three springtime recipes for Mad Greens, to be served in stores across Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Texas. And for every item sold, Mad Greens would donate the cost of one meal to No Kid Hungry. The goal? 3,500 meals donated by June 17, when the campaign ends.

It should be easy. “I’ve traveled in the Mediterranean and North Africa,” Alexis says, “and I love the way those healthy cuisines make use of fresh herbs and spices.” She brought that inspiration to her recipe development for Mad Greens, pushing the fast-casual chain to bring in new ingredients like tahini, fresh mint and parsley, sumac, and za’atar (the latter two come from Rocky Mountain Spice Company). “I’m so very honored that Mad Greens invited me into the project,” Alexis says, “and so flattered that [their team] trusted my wanderlust-y ideas!” As well they should; the resulting springtime-only menu items are on-trend and delicious.

(from left to right) Mad Greens’ Mediterranean Grain Bowl, Gingered Lemonade, and Moroccan Caesar Salad. Photo courtesy of Mad Greens

The Gingered Lemonade, as Mad Greens calls it, is lemon-tart and a little spicy from fresh ginger; green apples bring sweetness and their own special kick.

Last November, when Mad Greens rolled out grain bowls, they nailed the wonderful temperature contrast that comes when you pair cool greens and salad fixings with a warm wild-rice blend. Alexis’ Mediterranean Grain Bowl is a perfect example, and incredibly satisfying: Kale, pickled beets, shredded carrots, fresh parsley and cilantro, za’atar-spiced chickpeas, toasted almonds, and brown-sugar tofu come together with the rice and a brand new, creamy tahini “Caesar” dressing. Opting to use Dijon mustard instead of the traditional anchovies keeps the dressing vegan (it’s gluten-free, too). A sprinkle of sumac on top adds a bright, lemony note.

The Moroccan Caesar Salad has similar elements including the tahini-based dressing, pickled beets, carrots, and almonds, but swaps the rice for mixed greens and spinach, and adds on grilled chicken, pickled red onions, feta, and fresh mint. It’s a salad worth trying, even if doing so didn’t help an important charity. But, as of today, it does.

If you go: All 18 Colorado Mad Greens locations will be serving Alexis’ springtime fare from today through June 17. For every lemonade, grain bowl, and salad sold, one meal will be donated to No Kid Hungry.

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.