Prairie Box wants to turn diners into subscribers

Manitoba chefs, Lewis Glassey and Brandon Schofield, were inspired by their own busy home-lives, to create a meal subscription service, to help Winnipeggers get away from the habit of take-out or processed food.

New Winnipeg startup wants to help busy families eat healthy with meal subscription service

Lewis Glassey (left) and Brandon Schofield are the chefs behind Prairie Box. (supplied)

A pair of Manitoba chefs are looking for Winnipeggers to sign up for their meal subscription service.

A little over three weeks ago Brandon Schofield and Lewis Glassey launched Prairie Box.

Glassey describes the service as something "designed for young families and busy professionals who want to get a healthy meal, but don't have the time or inclination to cook fresh every day."

People who might turn to takeout or processed food when they can't find the time to cook.

Customers of Prairie Box sign up for 6, 8, 10 or 12 meals a week, and can choose between a pork, beef, chicken or vegetarian option. The meals are packaged and all delivered fresh on Sunday.

"We try, first of all, to make something that's healthy and interesting and also hearty," said Schofield.

"For now what we wanted to do is focus on keeping it simple, and keeping it delicious and just focusing on the quality non-stop, and as we grow we can add more options."

Last week, for example, the meals on offer included; pork loin with roasted carrots and Yukon gold mash; sauteed chicken fillet with creamed leeks, mushrooms and brown rice; beef lasagna or spaghetti squash "pasta" with basil pesto.

Glassey said the meals keep well in the fridge until you're ready to eat them, or can be frozen for longer-term storage.

According to Glassey, the two chefs make a great team because of their contrasting backgrounds.

His career took him to Vancouver Island, Northwest Territory drilling camps north of the arctic circle, the Great Barrier Reef and Germany. Meanwhile Schofield worked his way up from a dishwasher at Earls to one of the national restaurant chain's executive chefs.

"Brandon's got the super metrics background, and then I have the 'lah-dee-da I'm going to travel the world and eat nothing but oysters' mentality" said Glassey.

According to the chef, it means they can approach problems and solve them from both perspectives.

Booming business a welcome challenge

Prairie Box seems to be finding some early adopters; according to Schofield they're just in their third week and are already sending out hundreds of meals.

"We definitely weren't expecting this much of a boom or interest right off the hop; we were expecting more of a gradual climb," he said.

"The reception we've been getting from the community has been overwhelming at times, but it's a really good feeling."

While the rapid expansion has tested the two chefs they said they're dealing with the glut of early adopters well and putting out the standard of food they set out to prepare.

"Brandon and I came to the table together and agreed that quality was the most important part," said Glassey. "We're in this to build something long-term."

The dream is to have everything sourced from Manitoba.- Brandon Schofield

Glassey insists they would only limit the number of subscribers if the only other option was letting quality slip.

The plan for the coming weeks is to stick to the course, but once everything is running smoothly, start focusing on where their ingredients come from.

According to Schofield "the dream is to have everything sourced from Manitoba, so we're going to be slowly integrating these pieces into Prairie Box as we continue to go forward."

"We have a lot of farms we want to work with right now. I'm looking really forward to rolling into June and July and picking up some really amazing product from local farmers."

The two would also eventually like to own a dedicated kitchen instead of using the rental they have at the moment.

Constructive criticism helps business develop

Despite launching just a few weeks ago, and having more customers than they expected, Glassey said they're getting good, constructive feedback. "We haven't had anyone who says 'this is crap.'"

Schofield said the majority of the criticism has been about the website, not the food.

"Lewis and I are great in the kitchen, but we're not internet wizards by any means. A lot of the feedback we get is for streamlining our website or how we portray the information, get people to subscribe or see the menu."

For now, neither chef has quit their day job, which they admit has strained life at home — ironic considering Prairie Box is designed to help customers with time management — but they said their partners "have been absolute gems through all of this"

"They require so much patience, putting up with so much nonsense in the beginning, because we need to be working on this," said Schofield.

"But at the same time they understand that we're trying to build something, to build our dream. And so they've been super supportive."