Outside a brick building in Hartford’s Parkview neighborhood on a chilly Sunday morning, the sun has just peeked over the horizon but inside the Preppers Meal Prep cooks are firing up the kitchen. Chef and owner Chevon Schand chops fresh herbs for a mango salsa. The crisp smell of freshly chopped vegetables hugs my nose as I walk through the commercial kitchen. Food is everywhere: asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, chicken, shrimp, and salmon croquettes. The bright colors of fruits and vegetables light up the room; it smells light and fresh.
There is not a single “bad” food option in the kitchen, except of course the donuts and coffee Schand bought for his team. After all, they need the sugar to get through their day. The goal is to be finished cooking and packing 400 meals by 4:00pm.
The nine-person team simultaneously cooks everything in a span of six hours, all the vegetables, proteins, sides, sauces, everything. Each order is freshly made Sunday morning and in the customer’s fridge by Sunday night.
Preppers Meal Prep is a new restaurant business that meal preps healthy food for busy consumers. “Time is money” says owner Chevon Schand. The business takes pride in making lives easier for people who want to live a healthy lifestyle but don’t have the time. What makes Preppers different is the customizable options of their menu. Chevon’s goal is to get rid of the stigma that healthy food can’t be delicious too. With Caribbean inspired flavors including the Sweet Chili Salmon, people are raving about his delicious and healthy food. I have experience with the service myself. I enjoyed the convenience of having a healthy, natural, preservative free meal waiting for me at home. No time wasted on making dinner, just heat up and go.
Over on the packing side of the kitchen, four team members are packing meals. With tired eyes and several Dunkin coffees laying around, someone asks “Is someone going out for another coffee run?” because these team members have been counting calories since 6:00am. Each meal item portioned out with exact amounts for every meal. A woman in loose gray sweats is counting meals and checking off several meal categories that have been made: eighty orders of salmon, forty-seven orders of pulled chicken, sixteen vegan pastas, twenty vegan tacos, and so on. Another team member quickly measures out the portions of steamed cabbage medley, broccoli, rice and many more into plastic containers. I didn’t see her stop once for the entire hour. Brianna (one of the original members of the team) carefully puts together the mix and match orders, salmon with rice and green beans, boneless skinless grilled chicken with superfood slaw and jasmine rice. Another team member, dressed in a white T-shirt and comfortable gray pants, circles the tables making sure everything is going smoothly, helping where needed. No one complains. They buzz around the kitchen, following a choreographed dance of healthy meal preparation.
While the operation runs smoothly with their nine-person team, they’ve come a long way. The team started with just three members, Schand, Gabe, and Brianna. With growth Schand has been able to add team members to his crew. Preppers Meal Prep has grown at least 150% since January, starting at 75-80 meals a week to currently 350-400 meals a week. These meals are priced between $8.00-$9.67 depending on the consumer’s package size. Consumers can choose any number of meals from packs of six up to fourteen meals for the week. “We have no slackers. I’m blessed to have the staff that I have. Everyone meshes well, stays humble, and continuously takes initiative. I try to create a good atmosphere for productivity. I’m not just the owner, I try to play a role in making sure my work environment is healthy as well,” says Schand. The convenience of prepared food has taken the market by storm, Preppers is making it easier for people to meet their healthy lifestyle goals.
It all started in Schand’s home kitchen. He played sports in high school as well as American International College. As a college wrestler and semi-pro football player, Schand learned how to manipulate his diet to see his desired results. He began meal prepping at home and grew attention on social media, with 5-10 inquiries after each meal prep post. “I always had the idea, but it took a little nudging from friends to help jumpstart my business.” says Schand. All while attending graduate school and working a full-time job, Schand’s ultimate goal was to save time, and so Prepper’s Meal Prep was born.
Convenience is what fast food restaurants make their profits from, but at what expense to our bodies? Many similar food services, such as Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Home Fresh offer the same service on a larger scale. But these larger services often freeze their food before shipping it to your door. In most cases, ready-to-eat options at grocery stores include some salads but mostly wings, pizza, pasta, and egg rolls are high in sodium and preservatives which cause bloating and weight gain. With Preppers Meal Prep you can guarantee a fresh, delicious, healthy, and most importantly, filling meal all with the extra convenience of counted calories and macros too. “This is extremely helpful for our clients who are bodybuilders, personal trainers, and athletes. We have to know every calorie, sugar, protein, everything that goes into our bodies,” says Nicki Talbert, Preppers’ Social Media Coordinator and Customer Service Representative.
It’s common knowledge that fast food isn’t the healthiest choice; but surprisingly even recipes that have been passed down for generations in your family could be the reason for your health risks. Schand’s family is from Tennessee and most family gatherings had plenty of “soul food” being served. “I’m trying to eliminate the systemic perception we have about our health. Diabetes and heart disease runs in our family. That stuff is connected to the food not our DNA. It’s really the way you eat and recipes that are passed down; Unhealthy lifestyles get passed down.”
Schand is actively is trying to better his community by offering delicious healthy foods so people can live life to their fullest. Not just with the food, but the extra time that’s being saved as well. “It takes 10 minutes to place your order on Friday and 2 minutes to heat up your meals for 5 days out of the week.”
The kitchen starts to empty out as the day comes to an end. The cooks finish counting the inventory and head home first. By 2:00pm the preppers team continues to pack the last of the orders preparing for pickups at 4:00pm. The operation runs smoothly from dawn until dusk, from cooking to labeling to bagging. Schand stays until the last customized order is picked up. It’s lights out and the kitchen is locked up until the next week when Preppers starts the process all over again.
Schand and his team work on Sundays so their consumers can go back to living their lives. Enjoy some of the newfound extra time in your day as well as a delicious and nutritious meal with Preppers Meal Prep.
Paula Torres-Gonzalez is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine
Photo Credits: Paula Torres-Gonzalez