Their venture, Gourmet Prep Meals launches this month in Houston, promising fresh, ready-to-cook recipe kits to busy individuals and families who want to eat healthy and cook more at home. Imagine placing an order online and receiving all the fresh ingredients for a complete meal – pre-prepped, chopped and measured, and packaged up with cooking instructions – delivered directly to your home or office. Menu items include such chef-inspired entrees as Poached Salmon with Lemon Pesto Orzo and Roasted Asparagus, Herb Chicken with Whole Wheat Couscous and a Vegetable Medley, and Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed with Quinoa and Veggies. And, you cook it all at home in under 30 minutes.
Beyond the convenience, fresh flavor and good taste, this is food with a purpose. One hundred percent of profits are dedicated to training young adults - who are aging out of the foster care system - in entrepreneurship.
“The single problem we were looking to solve is that the majority of these kids get dumped into adulthood and don’t survive the workforce,” says Gur. “We wanted to figure out a way to build a community around this vulnerable population and raise awareness about this issue.”
The commercial kitchen which serves as home-base for Gourmet Prep Meals is located in the same building as an organization responsible for transitioning Houston's foster youth into adulthood. Cohorts of 15 youth at a time will work in the kitchen preparing the food and learning sales, marketing and customer service skills – in effect, a total experience in entrepreneurship. It’s a hands-on experience, versus a classroom. The youth work regular hours, get paid, and learn from nurturing staff.
These are real jobs with real-life consequences. Gur and Stefanie are working with a variety of social agencies in Houston that will provide support and refer youth to the program. Chef Molly Graham served as a culinary consultant on development of the menu.
“The commercial problem we want to solve,” says Gur, “is that busy parents are desperate to cook more and put healthy food on the table.”
But he says it’s not a typical not-for-profit approach. He calls Gourmet Prep Meals a “social entrepreneurial enterprise.” The commercial business serves as the mechanism to train the youth. The sale of the meal kits sustains the social mission and the youth benefit in the process, not only gaining valuable skills for future employment, but a total immersion in how a start-up works.
Good food and healthy eating are integral to the business model and the experience the youth will have.
“There is a specific reason we chose a culinary experience,” says Gur. “There’s probably no more unique skill than to be able to nourish yourself. At a most basic level, we’re going to train these youth how to cook meals for themselves and introduce them to food. That’s a key skill to becoming a self-sustaining adult.”
Gourmet Prep Meals will fill a need for time-pressured families, but Gur says the food will involve families in the issue of foster youth.
“It’s a story in a box,” he says of the meal kit. “We give people good food, they read the recipe card and get an introduction to the program. The customer learns about healthy food and the needs of foster youth. The food brings people into the conversation.”
He is optimistic about the launch of Gourmet Prep Meals and its impact on foster youth in Houston. “People want to see this group succeed,” Gur says. “There’s a lot of energy we’re hoping to tap for and on behalf of these kids.”
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