BY ANGELA DAIDONE
Lots of folks change careers mid-stream, for a variety of reasons – unexpected layoff, health concerns, industry downturn.
Some are lucky. They get to pursue a passion. But very few switch gears, love what they do and become a philanthropist all in one move. Jamie Faitelson of Carlstadt is one of those few.
Faitelson, a former luxury watch salesman, is the brains and persona behind the Chef Hymie Grande line of barbecue sauces, which has been approved by the American Diabetes Association as an acceptable food item for those suffering with the disease. Faitelson also donates five percent of his products' proceeds to the ADA.
"It took a good six months for the sauce to get tested and approved because the ADA guidelines are understandably so stringent," said Faitelson, explaining that products also must go through four phases of testing at the Food and Drug Administration.
"Right now, there's no other product on the market like ours," he said.
Presently, Chef Hymie Grande is only available online and at a few specialty outlets in the metro area. A quick glance at barbecue sauce labels on supermarket shelves shows processed sugars and high fructose corn syrups among the main ingredients, both of which are definitely no-nos for diabetics.
The Chef Hymie Grande products, which come in three flavors (a mild New Mexico Sweet, a medium Polapoté, and hot Cascabel Express) boast agave syrup as the sweetening agent.
Much of the American diet is dominated by food containing refined sugars, which can quickly raise blood sugar levels -- dangerous to persons with diabetes.
"You don't need a science or chemistry degree to know that too much processed sugar is not healthy," said Faitelson.
Agave syrup, on the other hand, is a natural honey-like product from the agave, a large, spiky plant in southern Mexico that resembles the cactus or yucca but is actually a succulent that is similar to aloe. Its sweetness comes from a complex form of fructose, a sugar found in fruits and vegetables, that occurs naturally without processing.
"The number of people in this country with diabetes and the cost of healthcare are staggering," said Faitelson. "It's like a rock rolling down a hill. It keeps getting worse."
According to the most recent data from the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million children and adults – 7.8 percent of the U.S. population – have been diagnosed with diabetes in addition, 1.6 million new cases are diagnosed each year in persons 20 years and older.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., but the complications of the disease are far more reaching: heart disease and stroke, hypertension, blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy and amputation, resulting in approximately $174 billion in healthcare costs, according to 2007 statistics.
Faitelson is hoping his Chef Hymie Grande products one day can compete with the big guys. But he's realistic.
"We have a product that's flavorful, tastes good and is good for you. But things take time so we're taking it slow," he said.
For more information on Faitelson and Chef Hymie Grande products, visit chefhymiegrande.com.