Pair of Winnipeggers satiate city’s appetite for ready-made meals

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What’s for dinner?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/09/2018 (1410 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What’s for dinner?

A frequent question asked by many of us. Today, young professionals and working parents often don’t have time to put together meals for themselves or their families. Filling this need are meal preparation and delivery services that bring ready-to-eat meals right to a customer’s doorstep. The services tailor meals to dietary needs while also providing new and exciting culinary choices.

While we may think meal prep and delivery services are something new, the concept is similar to a long-standing lunch service common in Mumbai, India. Known as tiffinwalas, carriers deliver prepared meals that have been packed in tiffins, or lunch boxes. Carriers collect them from homes of individuals or central kitchens, then deliver them to a customer’s workplace and return the empty containers the same day. Dating back to 1890, the service was launched in Bombay by Mahadeo Havaji Bachche, who employed about 100 workers. The service continues to be widely used in Mumbai, where up to 5,000 carriers deliver up to 200,000 tiffins to office workers every day.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Louise Nowak, with a Chicken Dij-ilicious dish, is a former personal chef and caterer who took over ownership of Supper Central last January.

The meal delivery system has intrigued the western business world with its exceptional efficiency. Both Prince Charles and Sir Richard Branson have visited the tiffinwalas of Mumbai to applaud their unique work.

Tiffin meals are popular with people who want fresh, homemade food and are wary of how food is prepared in restaurants. While the famous tiffinwala delivery system thrives in India, it has been replicated throughout the world in places such as Melbourne, the United Kingdom, Dubai, New York City and Toronto, to name a few.

And Winnipeg. Anthony Halyckyj has been operating 204 Meal Prep for two years. Working out of a rented commercial kitchen at the WestEnd Commons, Halyckyj prepares meals that he delivers the same day — typically Sundays and Wednesdays — anywhere in the city. He has also delivered meals as far as Lorette and Steinbach and has customers who drive into Winnipeg from northern First Nations to pick up their meals for the week.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Anthony Halyckyj, founder of 204 Meal Prep, creates healthy meals for people who don’t always have the time to cook.

Halyckyj, who simply describes himself as someone who knows how to cook, often prepares the meals with assistance from friends and family members. He says he is very committed to the manner in which the meals are assembled, adding he has “learned a lot along the way (about) how preparations are done and what standards need to be (met) according to the health inspectors’ laws and regulations.”

Halyckyj strives as much as possible to use fresh, local ingredients, including Manitoba beef, pickerel and chicken, and Manitoba-grown vegetables.

Typical meals include a chicken breast with sweet potatoes and fresh broccoli, a beef item paired with coconut jasmine rice and green beans, Asian glazed teriyaki salmon with stir-fry vegetables and brown rice, and mixed vegetables in an Asian stir-fry sauce. There are also gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. His breakfast items include protein pancakes and protein oatmeal.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Anthony Halyckyj strives to use fresh, local ingredients, including Manitoba beef, pickerel and chicken, and Manitoba-grown vegetables.

Halyckyj is a certified personal trainer with a degree in exercise physiology from the University of Winnipeg. His concept for nutritious meals builds upon his appreciation for being health-conscious. At different times, Halyckyj’s customers have included members of the Blue Bombers, Jets and Goldeyes. He has moved into serving a broader population of semi-professional athletes, university students, families, the business sector and the elderly. He believes there is a wide demographic that can benefit from meal services, including hospitals, care homes and school programs.

“My clients… are busy, but they want to eat healthy,” he says.

Halyckyj believes people are eating out less often because they are uncertain how healthy restaurant food is. “You can get something for more or less the same cost compared to turning to fast food and it is a nutritional alternative,” he says in reference to his meal service.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Anthony Halyckyj uses reusable plastic containers to deliver his meals.

As Halyckyj looks ahead, he hopes to continue expanding his clientele in Winnipeg and beyond. He also hopes to have a storefront where individuals can pick up and purchase his ready-to-eat meals.

Another local meal prep and delivery service, Supper Central, is located on McGillivray Boulevard within Kenaston Commons. Supper Central is unique in that it features both a meal-assembly storefront and a meal delivery service. Louise Nowak, a former personal chef and caterer, took over the business last January.

Nowak says she is excited about merging Supper Central with her catering and personal chef experience to provide a creative approach to meal services. “The menu will slowly be injected with different recipes that I am going to bring to the table,” she says. “We will still keep our tried-and-true favourites, but everything needs a good shakeup once in a while.”

At Supper Central, customers will find a variety of meal options that incorporate all fresh products. One option is “made-to-take” items that are assembled daily, refrigerated and accompanied with cooking instructions. There is the “heat-and-eat” program that offers single-serving meals and seven-day meal packs that have been fully cooked and frozen. Supper Central customers, individually or in groups, can also take advantage of assembly stations where they can build their own meals from available ingredients. Nowak says this option is of interest to customers who want to know exactly what goes into their meals. Meal delivery is carried out by a courier service.

As a personal chef, Nowak often prepared meals for clients for multiple days and noticed a need for the service. “People are busy and it is a convenience,” she says.

Some people use Supper Central for their elderly parents while others use the service for a significant family event, such as a birth or death. Some families find using the service frees up more time to eat together.

“Mealtime is becoming more important again,” Nowak says. “Even if you can do it a couple times a week and sit down as a family. It is a huge component of our lives, eating in general. What we do is we give you back an extra half-hour so you can sit around the table with your family.”

Nowak is committed to offering meals that are seasonal and changes items on the menu every month to keep the choices appealing. Supper Central can accommodate for dietary needs by customizing meals as vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. She notes that gluten-free breads and pastas are also available. Some of the meals available in September included balsamic chicken over penne pasta, ginger hoisin roast beef with rice and broccoli, gnocchi with creamy pesto sauce, shrimp scampi and turkey meat loaf with roasted carrots.

Looking ahead, Nowak hopes to expand the delivery side of the business to reach more people. Feedback from her customers, who range in age from 20 to 85, has been positive.

“People are our greatest resources,” she says. “They tell us what they like and sometimes what they don’t like. It’s all great information gathering… it is still somewhat of an untapped market. We can certainly expand upon it and get it out to more people.”

For more information about 204 Meal Prep and Supper Central, go to 204mealprep.com and suppercentral.ca.

Romona Goomansingh, PhD, is an educator and freelance writer in Winnipeg.

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