BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
As a working mother of three, the daily question of what to cook for dinner has become a chore. Even for those of us who enjoy cooking, often times the prep work and shopping make the entire process daunting. Enter scene, locally owned, PreFare Gourmet Meal Kits. Prefare offers scratch made meal prep kits that only take 15 minutes to cook, so that you can actually enjoy a home cooked meal even on your busiest nights. We had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Humble, VP and Founder of PreFare, to learn more about how his passion for good food and the environment turned into a service we can all benefit from.
Well, let me start from the beginning. I have no culinary education but I had a burning desire to start a meal kit company! My first iteration of this company was called Prep-a-ration and then I tried the name, Czund. Those didn’t go to well. I began the first iteration of PreFare Meals about 8 years ago also without too much success. I decided to go straight to grocery stores, when everyone else was going to direct to consumer. PreFare kits were sold with small local grocers such as Tony’s and Marzycks. It was slow going and I ran out if money plain and simple. Just because something doesn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean it can’t ever work out, however. Timing is everything, and I was just too early with my first attempt. Thankfully, in 2015, I teamed up with Edwin Moreno who is now the president of the company. After coming to America from Mexico, Edwin earned his chops, pardon the pun, working for a decade in chicken processing before moving up to the top. He served as Vice President of Boulder Natural Meats for 14 years and currently is Vice President of Colorado Native Foods. Edwin is deeply knowledgeable about all aspects food production and is passionate about ensuring we consistently deliver top quality ingredients to the PreFare family. A year later, in 2016, Susan Ardito came on board as our third partner and Culinary Director.
Susan has been involved in foodservice for over 30 years. She began cooking at the age of five with her mom and Italian grandmother. Some of her fondest memories of childhood revolve around cooking and dining with family which led her to become a chef. Susan is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, as well as a former professor at her alma mater. Having started her career working with well-known American chefs, Paul Prudhomme and Larry Forgione, she strives to deliver restaurant quality meals to PreFare’s customers. Susan also owned two successful restaurants in Poughkeepsie, New York and co-authored Math for the Professional Kitchen in 2012. She moved to Denver five years ago looking for adventure, and to wonderful place to raise her two sons.
We don’t do any shipping from across the US. Everything is made here in Colorado and delivered from our refrigerated vans direct to your doorstep. Every sauce is hand-made by our team of expert chefs with the best quality, clean ingredients. We work with Colorado-based artisans for everything from fresh pasta to pizza dough to organic ketchup. In season we buy local produce and year round we use Denver made tortillas and baked goods. PreFare has also began selling meals from independently owned, local resaurants in the Denver Metro area. Our customers can buy these heat and serve meals through our service which helps save restaurants money on marketing and delivery costs. Marie Empanadas as well as several other restaurants have come on board! We are all about flexibility and giving our customers what they want. Unlike some other companies we also offer an a la carte program with absolutley no strings attached, as well as money saving supscription meal pakages. Our goal is to not only support are local communities but to improve the quality of life of our customers through great food.
Let’s talk about your dedication to sustainability and minimal waste. This is something we all would like to see more companies take to heart. Prefare is a certified Green Business, can you tell us more?
We’ve agreed to begin a pilot program with a zero-waste grocery store in town called Infinity Foods. They will be providing us with zero waste pizzas, this will launch in January. The amount of food that gets thrown away in the food system, grocery stores etc, is a large percentage, close to 30%. We provide about 9-10K lbs of food a week and our food waste is only about 40lbs. We create everything to order, made fresh every day. Restaurants often make certain things with the idea that people will order the food which ultimately leads to food waste. Whereas we make the exact number of meals that have been ordered. It flips the entire food waste system on it’s head. 90% of our plastic is non-virgin, which means all of the plastic we use is almost entirely recycled. We hope to mitigate the waste stream and watch new technologies that address the massive waste problem. In two months we will actually eliminate all of our plastic entirely, for one recycled tray. There are no cardboard boxes used for deliveries or insulation, and we reuse every item we can, including ice packs. Compared to other companies we have virtually little waste. We are also working on off-setting the emissions of all of our delivery vans. Fundamentally the biggest stride for the environment we have seen is that we have anywhere from 800-1K people ordering our vegetarian items in a given week. Our vegetarian dishes are as good if not better than our meat dishes. We offer generous servings, but the meat size averages 5oz., so we are very conscious about portion control.
Since quarantine, we’ve heard more times than we can count, how people are losing the desire to come up with meal plans for their families. Prefare seems to be the answer to re-engage our joy of cooking. Walk us through your menu. Does it change with the seasons?
We create seasonally focused meals so that all of our ingredients are as fresh as they can be, and are in line with how people want to eat. Our range of offerings at this point is amazing! Along with an ever changing assortment of meat, poultry and seafood meals weekly we also offer gluten free, keto, kid-friendly, vegetarian and most recently brunch meal kits. A typical week has 14 options with items such as Steak-Frites with garlic aoli and roasted broccoli; Chicken Burrito Bowl; Pepperoni Pizza; Moroccan Vegetable Tagine with naan & goat cheese spread; Fish and Chips; and Classic Caesar Lunch Pack. We added insta pot soups and stews for the cooler weather and of course offer holiday items such as complete Thanksgiving dinner packages. You won’t ever get bored with PreFare Meals menus! And our easy to follow directions set up the home chef for success.
What advice would you give to a person wanting to venture out and start their own business?
Dot your i’s cross your t’s and know that you might have that backwards and thats ok. Passion doesn’t make you money but it will help you figure out how to make money in the dark days, eventually you will figure out the profit. Start simple, nothing matters until you put yourself out there. Iteration is everything so don’t get stuck in a rut!
How do you spend your free time?
I get outdoors most weekends with camping, riding, skiing and hiking. Edwin enjoys the local sports scene as well as time with his family. Susan does a little bit of everything including cooking for her friends and family.
We are working on trying to help restaurants and local producers in a much bigger way. This will most likely be a separate company. We will also continue to develop our relationship with Infinity Foods with a focus on zero waste. Check back for tons of specials and unique items for your holidays.
We hope you take the time to acquaint yourselves with this thoughtful and sutainably-minded local compay. With the busy holiday season in front of us, we could all use a little help keeping sane, and Prefare’s gourmet meals are perfect with this goal in mind. Visit them at prefare-denver.com to get started and use coupon code Denver121 for your first two meals free!