Free Range CrossFit & The Foodee Project

for me, the paleo food movement really arrived when two “food porn” sites dedicated to paleo/primal eating popped up. Both The Foodee Project and Chowstalker serve up photos and recipes from paleo foodies all over the web. They’re excellent resources if you need inspiration in the kitchen – and they’re both managed by Good People.™ (Hi, Patty!)

In addition to its browsable archive, The Foodee Project features one recipe every day, and many CrossFit affiliates around the country include the Foodee widget on their home pages – it’s like recommending a recipe to go along with the WOD. Matthew Lucas, the founder of The Foodee Project, recently opened a new gym in Tempe, Arizona called Free Range CrossFit  that will serve as HQ for both WODs and The Foodee Project.

I had the pleasure of an email interview with Matt to learn more about how The Foodee Project came to be, his plans for Free Range CrossFit, and that deep down, he’s a giant nerd. (Power to the paleo nerds!)

How did you get started with CrossFit…
Sports and competition were a staple of my childhood and on into high school where I played baseball and basketball. I also earned a black belt in Taekwondo. When it came time to go to college, I was left in an athletic limbo – nothing to train for! – and eventually gravitated towards body building (I was a freshman in college, and I wanted to be huuuuge!). I didn’t start CrossFit until my senior year at Arizona State, when I became deeply interested in rock climbing. It did me no good to be large and inflexible, so I needed to alter my training regimen.

I remembered my Dad showing me this “CrossFit” thing and decided to give it a shot. I was hooked from then on! I have been CrossFitting for the past six years and competed at the Regional level of the Games for the past three. CrossFit is a great sport, and I’ve enjoyed watching myself and others continue to grow as athletes as we’re exposed to such a large pool of movements and training philosophies.

… and where does paleo fit in?
Naturally, after being steeped in the CrossFit culture for any extended period of time, the topic of nutrition is guaranteed to come up. After reading the success stories in the CrossFit Journal about watching the quality and quantity of your food, I decided to give the Zone diet a try. After a pretty strict year, my results were great but if I ever have to weigh six ounces of turkey breast again I might launch the scale through the window! I gravitated towards the paleo diet, both for its simplicity and in an effort to help alleviate severe vitreous floaters that have been hampering my vision since my early twenties. Cooking has become a passion over the past few years; I enjoy it every day. It’s almost meditative. Cooking is one of the few times during my day that I get to just sit back and follow instructions. It smells great, tastes great, and usually looks great. Plus, there’s always room to change the rules and get creative. I stick pretty close to a 90/10 ratio of strict/cheating – mostly with the liquid I consume on the weekends! The quest to naturally heal these eye floaters continues to this day, anyone have suggestions?

What’s the inspiration behind The Foodee Project?
The Foodee Project is something I’ve been developing over the past couple of years. It originally started as an easy way to help the members at my CrossFit gym ind good, healthy, paleo-friendly meals. Rather than dumping the dozens of bookmarked sites I had collected into their laps – and crossing my fingers that they would investigate on their own – I decided to put together a blog to post a new paleo meal every day. The goals was to keep it simple.

Eventually I wrote a widget that would post the meal of the day on our CrossFit blog so members could see the new meal each time the visited our site. This widget started getting some attention from other local CrossFit gyms, and I eventually began to share the code with anyone that was interested. We now have over 600 gyms/affiliates posting our meal of the day, and we reach between 20,000-30,000 users each month. Pretty sweet! I’ve seen what proper nutrition and lifestyle can do to improve the quality of people’s lives, and this project is a way to share my findings with a community that has shared so much with me.

How do you decide which submissions to include in The Foodee Meal of the Day?
I usually spend my Friday afternoon posting meals for the coming week. I receive new recipes from users, as well as my (and my beautiful girlfriend Audrey’s) research. It gets me nice and inspired (read: hungry) before I go grocery shopping! First, I look for recipes that have good photos. I rarely cook something if I can’t at least see what it looks like first – it’s all about the eye candy! I try to mix up the proteins throughout the week, as well as the prep/cook time required, to give a nice blend of cooking ideas. We cook a ton at my house, so any unique twists on traditional dishes to make them paleo usually gets a test run and eventually ends up as a meal of the day. I’d say my favorite part of the project is finding blogs that are putting some serious work into spreading the paleo word, and being able to feature them on our site to bring as much attention to their hard work as possible.

A cooking class – to prepare gym members for their first week on the Whole30 program – showed them how to prep the major components of the week's meals, including breakfast egg muffins.

What’s your favorite paleo meal?
One of my all-time favorite meals is Pumpkin Sausage Soup. I use it as a first meal to convince people to give the paleo lifestyle a shot! It’s insanely good, and I recommend stocking up on pumpkin the next time you’re at the store so you can make it every week for the rest of eternity! I would say, however, that my favorite protein is pork and a great recipe we tried a few weeks ago (twice!) was Roasted Pork Chops with Grape Tomatoes. It took less than 15 minutes to prepare and was delicious. It isn’t Whole30 approved though, as it has some white wine, but I’m sure it would still be great if you replaced the wine with a broth of your choice.

What’s your favorite non-paleo thing to eat?
Captain crunch? Ha… just kidding. I would 100% go with cheese, and more specifically, cheese on pizza! That stuff is like crack! We did a bit of traveling earlier this summer in Italy and Greece, and I had a serious affair with some large amounts and types of cheese. It was great.

Tell us about Free Range CrossFit. What’s it about? Why did you start it?
I co-owned and ran another CrossFit gym in town for the past three years and felt it was time to branch off and try something new and fresh. To quote Pat Tillman, “If you’re not constantly changing, you’re becoming old news.” It’s time to shake stuff up!

Free Range CrossFit is part of a venture I launched in June here in Tempe called The Free Range Creative. It will serve as the new home for developing The Foodee Project and several other useful tools for the paleo and CrossFit community. Our gym will act as the local “test lab” for the practical implementation of some of the ideas we decide to experiment with. (By that logic, I guess our members will be considered free range lab rats. Awesome! Sounds like something I could find at the farmers’ market!). CrossFit has always promoted the black box approach to fitness, and I plan on taking that idea and running with it. We will use the Free Range Creative to bring our findings and ideas to the rest of the community. Expect to be able to play with some fun and innovative tools soon!

Taken after Pat's Run (honoring Pat Tillman). We ran the 4.2-mile course with sandbags in honor of Pat's beastliness!

What’s your favorite CrossFit workout?
I’d have to go with a classic: Helen. Good mix of the different types of movement with running, kettlebell swings, and pullups. Plus it cooks the grip which is an awesome fact you learn about half-way through. Maniacal… I love it! While I haven’t tried it yet, the rope climb-clean & jerk workout from the CrossFit Games this year looked pretty awesome. A nice mix of skill, power, strength, and stamina. I’ve also been really into handstands and developing my hand-balancing abilities this year. Two words: Ido Portal. Beast!

Tell us three surprising things about you.
1. I love learning about computer programming. (The widget for the Foodee project was a challenge to myself to learn php and MySQL) </nerd>

2. My traditional education is in architecture. I left the field two years ago to open a CrossFit facility and have loved every day since! I am still an absolute sucker for anything with a good consideration for design.

3. When we cook, we rock out. There is always music, and we bust out lots of dance moves. I suck at dancing. You should give it a try…

Visit Free Range CrossFit for WODs and more – and be sure to subscribe to the RSS for The Foodee Project!


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  • Tom R. says:

    Foodee and Chowstalker are awesome. I check them both out daily while at work and trying to find something other than the usual go-tos for dinner.

    FGB today. 319, which is a massive PR for me. Completely wiped out. NorCal margs later with plenty of beef to celebrate (after my nap).

  • Melissa M says:

    This was an awesome interview! I haven’t checked out either of those sites too much but will definitely do so now.

  • Chowstalker says:

    I am always deeply honored when Chowstalker is mentioned in the same sentence with The Foodee Project, as it is totally awesome! Thanks Mel! Great interview and great story about how the site got started. And congrats to Matt on his new gym!

  • Thanks so much for the post, Mel! Really excited about what we are lucky enough to be doing over here. And thank you everyone for the kind words, this community is awesome!

    We got together with a big group of monsters this morning out in Phoenix for FGB…quite a turn out, it was great. 345, was pretty pumped about that score!

    NorCal-ritas are definitely in order tonight!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to answer my questions and for giving all of us the gift of The Foodee.

      Congratulations on your FGB triumph — that is a mighty impressive score. Right ON! Hope the NorCal-ritas helped with recovery 😉

  • Sonya says:

    Love, Love, Love Chowstalker! Didn’t know about Foodee! Thanks! Will definitely share with my compadres at work who are also aficionados!

    BTW, have you seen how many of your recipes have been linked to at Mark’s Daily Apple this weekend? I shared the green beans because two of my other (of many) faves from your site were already posted. 😀 So looking forward to your book!

    • Mel says:

      We’re so lucky to have both Chowstalker and The Foodee — an embarrassment of riches.

      Thanks for that link from MDA; I didn’t know I was getting shout-outs over there. So nice!

  • APayne says:

    Made the pumpkin sausage soup last night. Amazing. AMAZING!! I’m actually excited about leftovers tonight! Thanks for the link, Mel.

  • Angie says:

    I have both of these sites bookmarked and check them daily. I make a least one of the recipes weekly and have never been dissatisfied!

  • Cobb says:

    Woah, Woah, Woah…. so… apparently I’m some kind of Lab Rat now!?

    When did you plan to break that news to me, man!!??

    Seriously though, as someone who is lucky enough to encounter Matt Lucas on an almost daily basis, I will be the first to say I am constantly impressed by the hard work and commitment he puts in to his projects and just making the lives of those around him better in general.

    I’m a lucky Lab Rat!