The concept of prep kitchens that help those that are too busy to prepare their meals in a flash is not a novel idea. In any given city there are likely a handful of these places to choose from. The Passionate Plate is a wee bit different in that it is for the busy gourmet, who still appreciates fine cuisine even if it happens to be vacuum sealed. I had a chance to try out their monthly menu and ask the Owner, Leanne Young, a few questions.
1. What interested you in this type of business?
As a professional woman, with a husband and two young daughters I struggled with the demands of time and providing healthy meals for the family. With our busy schedules of work and children we found ourselves far too often using a fast food drive-thru or store bought readymade meals full of preservatives for supper. Even the challenge of shopping was ongoing.
The meal preparation business struck me as a great concept of how to eat healthy prepared meals with a busy lifestyle, and we found it brought our family back to the dinner table. No fuss, no rush – just a calmer, more relaxed supper hour.
2. What makes the Passionate Plate different from the other meal prep studios in particular?
The Passionate Plate is different from other meal-prep businesses in a few ways, primarily the facility and the food. Our space was designed not just to be functional, but comfortable. We put a lot of thought into designing a space that people will enjoy being in. You’ll find our sessions have some jazz playing, and you can enjoy a glass of our selection of wines while you assemble your meals. As far as the food, we wanted to bring gourmet to the family. Not only new flavor combinations, but also the appreciation for the menus that our chefs have designed.
The other significant difference is that we have a bistro and Italian espresso bar, as part of our business. Again, we want people to come and enjoy themselves with a either a smore’s latte, glass of merlot, or one of our gourmet pizza like Shrimp pesto, before or after their meal prep sessions.
You can come in and enjoy a meal in our bistro and watch a meal assembly session in action or just simply enjoy the bistro on it’s own. The Passionate Plate is so much more than simply meal assembly studio – we have children’s classes – the little cookies class (3 years to 7 years old) and junior gourmet (8 years of age and up) – these two groups learn age appropriate techniques in the kitchen and get comfortable with the basics of cooking, baking and nutrition.
We also have curbside service for those who have mobility issues or those who have young children napping in the car – just simply call the store and we’ll bring your order out to your car. My business partner, Lianne, and I remember how difficult it was transporting children in and out of the vehicle when only “popping in” for a minute – so we wanted to ensure that we made it easy for busy parents.
Soon we’ll be adding a delivery service for the pre-assembled orders. If you don’t have the time to attend a session, you can order from our meal assembly menu and our staff will assemble it for you. This part of our business has really taken off and we’re finding people are so busy they love our pre-assembled service. With delivery, we’re making it even easier.
We also rent our space for private events – our space is beautiful and relaxing – we’ve rented the facility for private wine & cheese parties – the demonstration kitchen is situated so we can also act as a teaching studio for adult cooking classes. We’ve hosted iron chef competitions and have the ability to take down our meal assembly stations to make room for large parties.
We’ve found that the facility can be used for a variety of events.
3. What are the most significant joys and struggles you have found in the early stages of your business?
The experience of starting from a vision where we had the opportunity to put our ideas and creativity into action has been a great journey and from the comments we have received on our food, the space, and the experience it has been all worth it.
The struggles have been to establish business systems for efficiency while continually pushing cost down and quality up. Another challenge has been to emphasize the gourmet taste while appealing to a varied clientele. Spicy food is a perfect example where some love the spicy taste while others may not like it at all. We have resisted moving to bland which tends to not have the range of opinions, rather we have empowered our customers in the meal assembly by developing recipe guidelines so people can decide how much spice they want and put in the best amount of flavor to suit their tastes.
4. Is your family involved in the business (besides benefiting from the easily prepped meals)?
My partner Lianne and I are busy moms and establishing the business we had her mother and father helping, my father-in-law and friends, my husband helps where ever he is needed, and does a lot more than just the “heavy lifting” that he claims to be his strength.
5. Where do the ideas for your menus come from? What is the inspiration each month?
We pick our menu items based on three principles: gourmet meals, appeal for the family, and value. At the end of the day we need to provide good taste and value to the busy family so we try and put a little gourmet twist on family favorites.
6. What are your interests/hobbies outside of the business?
With a two daughters, 4 and 3, it is all about them and my husband and I are enjoying every moment of it we can! As a family we enjoy doing things together like biking and swimming. My husband and I have developed a recent appreciation for ballet, finger painting and freeze tag.
7. The concept of your business has been around for a few years, but you seem to have taken into a gourmet niche?
In terms of any business strategy there are really only two choices – you either do it cheaper or you do it better.
What we chose do is to provide gourmet at good value along with the enjoyable and social experience of the meal assembly sessions. We look to use local products where possible. We’ve teamed up with Spring Creek Ranch for our beef products – they’re hormone free and antibiotic free. Anytime you have a beef product in our meal assembly, it’s Spring Creek Ranch. We use fresh herbs in our sessions, which make a considerable difference in the quality and taste of an entrée. And we also vacuum seal our meals – this creates a higher quality product that stays fresh longer in your fridge and freezes beautifully. You won’t see freezer burn on our entrées when you take them out of your freezer for the week ahead.
Overall, we’ve worked hard to ensure that we have an excellent product for the customer. We encourage feedback from the customer and we really listen – we’re here to make the customer’s life easier, less stressful, healthier and add a twist to a night out!
The Passionate Plate
5012 104A Street NW
Edmonton, AB T6H 6A2, Canada