Houston Chefs Team Up To Craft Vital Kitchen, A Prepared Meals Company
If you’ve wondered where Jordan Asher, former chef of Ritual and Dosi, Veronica Rademacher, formerly sous chef at Ibiza and executive chef of Brasserie 19, and Gregg Beebe, who was a chef at Shade, all ended up, here’s the answer: they’ve teamed up and founded Vital Kitchen, where they are crafting meals to-go and for delivery.
The company got started after Rademacher left Brasserie 19 and became a health and wellness coach. “She started doing a lot of meal prepping, cooking and creating weekly plans for people,” Asher said. “It started gaining momentum. She started having people call her every week wanting a meal plan.”
That’s why Asher, knowing that Rademacher had founded a growing business and wanting to be involved himself, only committed to opening Ritual and staying long enough to get it off the ground. Soon, Beebe joined Vital Kitchen as well.
The team grew the business, and these days their customers can order the chef-created meals online. “Three chefs are leading the concept, so the meals are good for you, wholesome, local and sustainable,” said Asher. “More importantly, they’re really delicious. We’re using all of our knowledge and skill sets that we’ve learned working in restaurants to bring to our prepared meals company. We’re able to offer unique flavor profiles and create something more exciting than what you’ll typically find in prepared meals.”
Customers can choose free delivery or save 10 percent by picking up at various gyms, juice bars and yoga studios inside the 610 Loop. Unfortunately, Vital Kitchen has not yet expanded beyond that area, but they are hoping to do so in the future. Asher says, “Our goal is to get pick-up locations in every major neighborhood, but for now we’re focusing on inside the Loop.”
The meals are delivered up to twice a week by 6 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. They won’t ring the bell and disturb their customers’ morning routines. Instead, the meals are in a cooler bag where they will stay cold for up to four hours.
The delivery days are built around the cooking schedule. “We cook everything fresh to order. We don’t have meals sitting around waiting to be purchased,” said Asher. The up to twice-a-week schedule also ensures that the food isn’t sitting around in the customer’s fridge for too long. (With companies that only deliver once a week, those last two meals are a lot less appealing than the first two.)
One of Vital Kitchen’s specialties is being set from the get-go to accommodate vegans. It’s the add-ons that make the meals satisfying for meat eaters. “Our meals are plant-based and nutrient-dense so there’s no meat incorporated in the base of our meals,” Asher explained. “You have the option to fortify that meal with a meat protein or a vegan protein, like legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. It’s very diet-friendly. Everything is gluten-free and dairy-free.”
Some examples of the base meals are Sweet Potato Hash with Cauliflower, Tomato, Jalapeno and Maple Cider Drizzle; a Himalayan Rice Bowl with Curried Cauliflower, Green Mango, Carrot Hummus and Snap Peas; and Butternut Squash Chili with Red Kidney Beans, Coconut Scallion Grit Cake, Green Tomato Pico and Cashew Crema. The meals come in “small” and “standard” sizes.
Meaty additions are tailored to the meal. Lemon Rind Chicken is an option for the Zesty Quinoa Tabouli while beef bulgogi can be added to the Korean Rice Bowl.
Asher says the portions are not skimpy. “We’re talking a Texas-sized ‘standard’ here. These are more like the portion sizes we should be eating, but we’re not trying to be dieticians here.” A small is $10.25 and a standard is $13.75 if it’s delivered (and 10-percent off those prices if picked up).
The program is different from others, such as Blue Apron, because the meals are fully prepared. “We’re chefs. We like the art of cooking and the craft of it. We don’t want people to not cook. We’re offering an option for whenever you don’t have time—when you need something really quick and on-the-go. We’d love to sell people 10 meals a week. That would be great, but if they only get five meals from us for lunch or whatnot and then cook five meals a week, that’s awesome,” said Asher.
More information can be found at the Vital Kitchen web site.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.