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Red Apron Kitchen offers fresh, healthy meals for fast-paced people

January 7, 2019

After a season of employment transition, Emily Pope, owner of Red Apron Kitchen, found herself at a crossroads, looking to do something else.

“I just kept feeling like there’s something different there for me,” Pope said. “I feel like I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit.”

At the time, Pope had begun meal prepping for her family.

“Me and my husband together have four kids,” she said. “Our lives are just super busy. Living out here in Mauriceville, you can’t get anything healthy. We live in what’s called a bedroom community. There’s a couple fast food places, and that’s it, so that’s where meal prep came in for us personally.”

What started off as a personal routine soon turned into a larger venture for Pope.

“I’ve got my co-workers in the office telling me — because I’m bringing my meal prep - ‘Oh my gosh, can you meal prep for us? It look so good,’” she said. “I started meal prepping at home for just a small group of people, and then by word of mouth, it spread.

“It got bigger and bigger to the point that one day, I was just like, ‘I’m done with my current job,’ and so I started thinking how as a consumer I would want a meal prep place to work for me.”

With the mindset of a customer friendly approach, Pope began creating her business.

“I built a website,” she said. “I wasn’t even operating at that time. It was one little step at a time. I got the website up and running, and it was great. I even tied e-commerce so people could pay online. I created my logo. Then I was thinking, ‘Well if I had a business I would want it to be a separate entity to protect my personal assets,’ so I set up a LLC.

“Then all of a sudden, one day, it just felt like that day to tell my bossy ‘Sorry, this is not the place for me. I’m going to go ahead and embark on this journey.’”

After finding a location and putting feelers out in the community, Pope opened up Red Apron Kitchen in October.

“When I do something, I don’t do it halfway,” she said. “We’re going to put ourselves out there in a big way. That’s what we did.”

While the meal prep service focuses on healthy foods, Pope says she doesn’t skimp on taste.

“Number one: flavor is important,” Pope said. “For me, food is all about the flavor, and, yeah, we’re going to try to get skinny at the same time, but you know what, we’re going to enjoy it while we’re doing it.

“I feel like I’ve spent my whole life trying not to be fat, but the problem is I love food, so I want to help people try to eat healthy. At the same time, I’m not this fitness model saying look how perfect I am. It’s more like I’m on the same level as you guys. I’m trying not to be fat too so let’s do this together.”

Pope utilizes her mother’s recipes and those that she finds while researching, and then transforms them for healthy eating.

“When I’m not here cooking, I’m thinking about recipes,” Pope said. “I take recipes that my mom cooked when we were growing up. My mom was a super good cook. My parents had a restaurant in Wildwood when I was growing up, so I grew up working in a restaurant.

“Over the years, I’ve adapted some of the things she used to cook and made them healthier. I’ll take recipes and replace the potato with cauliflower and stuff like that.”

Menu items change weekly, Pope said.

“Every week is different,” she said. “I do one breakfast option, then I do five lunch/dinners, and then I usually do one or two treats. Lately, my treats have been keto, but I was doing a lot of protein energy balls. Whatever the people want is what I’m going to do.”

Customer favorites include casseroles and soups, Pope said.

“My soups are hearty,” she said. “It’s not just liquid. People love it. My skinny Zuppa toscana is one of my best sellers. This recipe is an Olive Garden recipe originally. I used to always order it every time I would go. Years ago, I Googled the original recipe, and I figured ways to tweak it to make it better and better.

“It’s got Italian sausage and bacon, and it’s a cream based savory soup and the original version has kale and red potatoes. When I started this business, I replaced potatoes with cauliflower. It’s delicious. It’s one of those comfort foods.”

Other best sellers include the bacon cheeseburger casserole, a recipe adapted after talking to a customer, and the keto cheesecake muffins.

Pope said she didn’t originally aim to offer a ketogenic diet menu.

“In the beginning, I was doing high protein, low carb, and then I would put one cheat meal every week,” she said. “People just started asking ‘Do you do keto?’ Honestly I didn’t really know a whole lot about keto, but over the three months that we’ve been open, it’s where we want a 100% keto menu. That’s what the people want.

“I started reading about it. I watched a couple of documentaries about it. I bought some keto cookbooks. I do a lot of replacing ingredients with things that will make it keto-friendly.”

Lunches and dinners come in a 24-ounce container and the breakfast and treats come in a 12-ounce container. Meal containers include info such as the date the meal was cooked, expiration date, and nutritional info.

Pope uploads the menu to the website by Monday evening, and it remains available until Saturday at midnight. Customers can pick up their orders on Monday from 6-8 p.m. There are two delivery runs on Tuesday, one in the morning and one in the evening.

To qualify for delivery, customers must order at least $75 worth in meals. The delivery fee is $7 and is restricted to Orange County except for case-by-case special exceptions. For customers who order over $100 worth of food, delivery is free. All items are sold individually.

“For me, this is the first step,” Pope said. “My goal for 2020 is to have my own location and to do another prep day. I think it’s always going to be here in Mauriceville because this is my community. The goal for me is not for me to grow so big. The time just flies by because I love what I’m doing.”

Kara Timberlake is a freelance writer for Cat5

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