Desperation fueled RealEats, an organic, whole foods meal delivery company started three years ago.
"It was all about my own inability to feed my children really good, healthy food as a busy, working single father," said CEO and founder Dan Wise, a Toronto native who splits his time between Montreal, New York City and the Finger Lakes. "I didn't want to pick up pizza. I didn't want to trade off health and taste for convenience with my kids, so I tried to cook for them. My kids really didn't like that. They'd say, "Please don't do this again, this is horrible."
Instead, he made connections with several chefs in the Big Apple, enlisted farmers in Upstate New York and created a website that sells vacuum-packed meals that can be boiled to perfection in six minutes. Meals sell for $12 to $15, depending on the number you buy at realeats.com. The company's customers stretch from the Northeast to the Mid-Atlantic states to the Midwest.
The company added to its repertoire last month when it brought several chefs to Roswell Park Cancer Institute to work with teens and their families on new recipes. At least a couple of meals will be added to the RealEats mix as a result. A portion of the proceeds will go to Teen Cancer America, founded by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who. The nonprofit has helped developed and support teen and young adult cancer units and programs across the country, including at Roswell.
Q. Your production company is in Geneva, N.Y. As much food as possible is sourced from Finger Lakes and upstate New York farms?
That's right. Above and beyond local, we are really about responsible. We want people eating real food with no junk, no preservatives, no GMOs. Whenever we can do that locally in terms of ingredient sourcing, we will.
Q. What sorts of items would an individual or family get every week?
We create 150 new meals each year. Our best sellers include Shiitake chicken, whole grain pasta with grilled marinated peppers and a little bit of ricotta. We have this healthy turmeric chicken which helps people reduce inflammation. It's got ginger and Basmati rice, and blistered tomato and pepper relish. We have a maple brined turkey, a grilled salmon with Tahini sauce and wild brown rice, sauteed spinach. There's a lot to choose from on a regular basis.
Q. Talk about the meals you created recently at Roswell Park.
These were meals that participants created with their chef leader within the group. The celebrity chefs included Katy Sparks, RealEats culinary director; Barrett Beyer, who was on "Hell's Kitchen"; Lien Lin, executive chef and co-owner of Bricolage in Brooklyn; and Silvia Baldini, who won the television show "Chopped." We paired off cancer survivors and their families with the chefs so they could create their own meals. We then did a little exercise, asking them to pick their favorites and those meals will now become RealEats.
It was an amazing event and they came up with some spectacularly delicious meals. A steak meal was out of this world. Others were absolutely delicious. We have to keep them secret because they're going to launch on our website.
We did this to educate young people, particularly those with cancer, about real food. We want them to understand the benefits of real food. We want them to help us to talk about the event with their friends, and help them to realize how important it is to eat real food.
We hope to roll out this program across the country and teach a lot more young people, and we hope to do this with Teen Cancer America all the way through.
Q. Your top three tips for eating healthy during the holidays and in the new year?
I always recommend to people to watch the amount of food they eat. Portion control is important. Don't get sucked into the candy and sugar vortex during the holidays. Stick to good, solid traditional foods that come from the ground or that are raised responsibly. Start thinking about the sources of your ingredients.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon