In this season of resolutions (or any season), the chief obstacle to healthier eating might not be added sugar, portion control or faltering willpower, though all three are willing disrupters.
The chief obstacle just might be — boredom.
After all, how often can people reasonably apply themselves to grilled chicken, brown rice and vegetables (or similar worthies)? Does watching what you eat necessarily mean abnegating flavor and variety?
Whitney and Josh Deri, founders and owners of Blend Catering, a top Reno catering outfit, asked themselves these questions last fall as they purchased Meal Prep Reno, a meal delivery service that shared their commercial kitchen in Sparks.
“Josh and I have always wanted to do something different than catering all the time, but not a restaurant,” Whitney Deri said of buying the business.
“We thought this would be a great idea. It’s still convenient, balanced nutrition, portion controlled” — three benefits of prepared meals — “but also delicious food. Nothing boring.”
Delivery plans at $11 per meal
The Deris knows from delicious.
In the years since it debuted in fall 2013, Blend Catering has developed a reputation for creative, stylish, flavorful, wide ranging menus, especially for weddings and other celebrations.
At the same time, “if you don’t have the need for a party, you can’t taste what we’re doing,” Whitney Deri said. With Meal Prep Reno, “you’re still having our signature, but it’s more accessible every day.”
When the Deris acquired Meal Prep Reno, it offered only about 12 to 15 items, with 90 percent based on grilled chicken breast, Josh Deri said.
The couple expanded the menu to about 30 items, developing recipes that increased the variety of proteins, preparations and flavors.
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They brought aboard Nick Sobiek, a Blend Catering chef and fellow Culinary Institute of America graduate, as a collaborator and part owner of the meal delivery service. A nutritionist helps shape the recipes, 90 percent of which are around 500 calories, Sobiek said.
Reno Meal Prep’s four delivery plans work out to $11 a meal.
Diverse techniques, international flavors
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The chef approach — knowledge, creativity, technique — to prepared meals is readily apparent.
For shrimp in Thai yellow curry sauce, “we’re curing the shrimp first to get rid of any shrimp smell,” Josh Deri said. “You can microwave it for lunch and it won’t stink up the office.”
The chefs make their own za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, then marinate chicken thighs (trimmed of fat) overnight in the blend. The grilled and roasted chicken is accompanied by stewed chickpeas with shawarma spice and jabs of pickled red cabbage.
“Everything is seasoned correctly, seasoned just like we would eat it,” Sobiek said.
A carnitas bowl begins as braised pork shoulder. Fat is removed from the meat and skimmed from the cooking liquid, which is reduced to a near-glaze. “The pork is chilled in that glaze, so when you reheat it, it’s super moist without being fat,” Sobiek said.
Reaching out to the office
Meal Prep Reno is already proving to be a productive undertaking, the owners said, its business model more consistent than catering (which can be highly seasonal) and more predictable than a restaurant (which requires guesswork about ingredient ordering and customer numbers).
Of course, this consistency and predictability rely on maintaining a sufficient cohort of customers. To date, Meal Prep Reno is doing about 800 meals a week, the owners said, with most of that home delivery.
The company recently began marketing delivery to offices. An expanded menu — standards plus seasonal items — will follow successful expansion. “We want to grow but grow smarter,” Josh Deri said.
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Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.