Aberdonian Michelle Graham launched her meal prep business at the tail end of last year after experiencing huge demand for her service.
Quitting her job in June 2020 to meet customer demand, Michelle operates Eat Complete full-time, and is now looking for a new kitchen facility to be able to service her growing client base.
The competitive weightlifter, whose competitions have been put on hold until coronavirus restrictions allow for events to run safely, offers up pre-cooked batch vegan meals for her busy customers.
Made from scratch
Going vegan eight years ago and seeing a gap in the market, Michelle cooks everything herself and even calculates the amount of calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates in each portion ensuring those consuming her food know exactly how much of each is in the dish.
She said: “I train quite a lot and as a vegan I’d always get questions on what I eat, where I get my protein and that sort of thing. I turned vegan eight years ago before it was easier with all the supermarkets and restaurants now having more products and specific menus.
“I really had to learn myself and anything I was missing I’d come up with a way of how to get it, and wanted it to be healthy. If I was eating a curry I wanted it to be healthy and learned what I could about food. I started with weightlifting and now do Cross Fit. I’ve done a few competitions and last year I was meant to be competing a lot, but they got cancelled because of Covid-19. I’ve still been doing all of the training for them anyway.
“To figure out the nutrition, I weigh each individual ingredient and import the information into an excel spreadsheet and all of their calories, carbs, fats and proteins are worked out. I do know all the sugar and fibre for anyone who wants to know that, too. I work all of that out and then calculate the total of the full meal and divide it by however many portions is in a batch. That’s how I like to do it.”
Working in the animal welfare sector for a decade and travelling the world working at animal sanctuaries and for non-profit organisations, Michelle feels her move to food still promotes veganism and is a different way for her to keep her core values close to her by offering up healthy vegan meals.
Launching in June, it wasn’t until October last year that Michelle got the business off the ground and started selling her dishes to customers across the north-east.
“At the beginning of last year people kept asking me if I could do their meal prep for them and I kept turning it down. I realised there was so many people asking me to do this, and I guess there’s a lot of people out there who don’t know too much about nutrition so I was the person they were coming to,” said Michelle.
“I started working on it in June and I quit my job to do it full-time. I knew I couldn’t give 100% of myself to it if I didn’t, especially with my training. I opened the business in October. It has been incredible. It has been a lot of work but I couldn’t have imagined it to go like this. It seems to be working for a lot of people, too, and lots of people said they have noticed changes in their body and in their performance when exercising. To see those improvements in lockdown is pretty amazing. Nutrition is so important in general, as well as when you’re working out.
“The majority of my customers are actually meat eaters, I’d say around nearly 90% of them eat meat, and the fact that they are loving the food is amazing.”
Cooking from her kitchen at home, Michelle is already on the hunt for a new commercial kitchen premises to hire out so she can further meet demand as her client base continues to grow.
While she is only able to service customers in the north-east on a delivery basis at the moment, she is hopeful, when restrictions ease, that customers will be able to travel to collect their meals, too.
“They are all meals I eat myself. I created the recipes and each week there’s eight to 10 meals. I switch some out so when I bring new recipes on, I rotate it with another. It is just me doing everything so there’s only so much I can do.
“I’m looking for a larger commercial kitchen space to be able to offer more. I’ve been trying to find one for a few months but haven’t seen anything available yet. I also provide breakfasts as well. Everyone gets their order in on a Thursday evening. I don’t like waste so I prepare everything on Friday and all the cooking is done on Saturday and Sunday.
“I deliver primarily to Aberdeen city, and before we went into lockdown people from Aberdeenshire who worked in the city would meet up with me before work on a Monday and I would hand over the food they had ordered. Because of what has been happening, I am delivering to those who live in Aberdeenshire because they can’t get into the city.
“I deliver to Stonehaven, Westhill and the outskirts like Dyce. If we do expand, it will be something we do permanently, but with lockdown I’m just trying to get my products to my customers.”
Donating meals to children in need
At 33, and with her business not even a year old, Michelle is already thinking of others and partnered with Food for Life Global, a organisation which helps feed some of the world’s poorest children, when she first set the business up.
With every meal purchased from her website, Michelle will donate a plant-based meal to a child in need. She has already donated 1,097 meals.
“The charity operates worldwide and works with 60 organisations around the world who all help feed less fortunate kids.
“I think it really motivates me every day knowing there’s a purpose for what I am doing. When people order and they enjoy the food and get benefit from it, it really pushes me to do more. I get so much fulfilment out of it and I know my customers like knowing they are helping, too.”
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