You may have noticed—especially if you’re trying to eat well on a tight schedule—there are a lot of meal prep services out there. Not just national ones like Blue Apron, but Jersey-specific services that are slowly carving a place for themselves here.
It was a crowded market that young entrepreneur Jesse McBride wanted to enter, but he had special motivation. Before he launched mademeals, McBride had been planning a fairly standard meal-prep business. But in 2016 he was diagnosed with colitis and his business concept changed. As he paid more attention to his diet, his entire outlook on food changed. Add chef Joe Stout, who lost 160 pounds by transforming his own diet, and McBride unveiled mademeals last March.
Now nearly a year in, they’re still in a growing phase. Mademeals prepares meals in a commissary kitchen in Springfield and delivers to parts of Essex, Union and Somerset Counties, most of Hudson County, plus territory in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. McBride and Stout focus on what McBride calls a “full circle” perspective—incorporating concerns like responsible and local farming and community connection.
We caught up with McBride to ask how he and Stout differentiate themselves in the crowded meal-prep market.
Table Hopping: You started a small but signature meal-prep business. Did you go to culinary school?
Jesse McBride: I’m not classically trained, no, but I did meal prep for myself for a long time. Basically, I’ve been getting trained by my cofounder and partner, Joe Stout, since 2016.
TH: How did you meet chef Stout?
JM: I was actually still at my job in recruitment in Manhattan in 2016. I was really looking for a chef to build this business with. I put a job ad on Indeed and Joe was one of the first applicants. We met up in Hoboken and really hit it off, personality-wise. He had very relevant experience and he was able to help consult and grow the concept, so he ended up as a co-founder. He was excited because he didn’t have the opportunity in a previous job to work with ingredients and farmers we work with. It excited him to have that in the core of our mission.
TH: Is it true that the concept for mademeals came about after a significant diagnosis for you?
JM: I was actually already working on a meal prep business. It was a very basic meal prep concept at the time. Then I was diagnosed and that changed my outlook on what food is, how it’s sourced, what it does to you. It changed my mission, gave it different grounding.
TH: Can you explain that change in perspective?
JM: It was just really learning about when farmers use responsible practices, and what that means. When they don’t spray their fields full of pesticides, when they let livestock roam freely and don’t use antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones, when their practices really help to regenerate the environment. They produce more nutrients than other foods, they help regenerate the soil, and improve living conditions for farm animals. It’s really kind of full circle. And farmers are the backbone of our society, so really we’re trying to bring it back to basics by supporting small local farmers instead of going with corporate giants out there.
TH: A lot of the meal prep business out there—and there are a lot—seem to cater to dietary trends. Are those on the radar for you guys at all?
JM: It’s funny because you’ll talk to a lot different people that follow this trend or that trend. We understand it from a marketing standpoint, but in terms of our core belief system, we’re not really about the trends. We’re into mindful practices that go beyond any trend or any period of time.
TH: What about your customer base? Is there demand for keto or exclusively plant-based options?
JM: It’s really a mix. People often choose the low-carb version of a lot of our options and some do all low-carb meals across the board. But we have some customers that are doing things like training, training for fights, and they’ll do a mix of low-carb and regular carb for their workouts. Stuff like that. We haven’t positioned ourselves as “keto.” Mostly we cater to people looking for a hearty, delicious responsibly-sourced meals that are just too busy to make them.
TH: Speaking of the meals, how would you describe your cuisine? And how seasonal does it get?
JM: We kind of mess around and cross different cultures. Though we try to keep things generally pleasing to the average palate—we won’t get too crazy. I would say we really focus on that rustic farm-fresh style. And then occasionally throw in some Italian, Indian, some Asian, different influences. As for seasonality, we do a rotating menu, which is another differentiator from other meal-prep services. We have staples that change every month, and chef’s specials that change every week. Joe is really dedicated to that.
TH: There are a lot of other meal-prep services. How do you see you grow among so many competitors?
JM: There are definitely competitors out there killing it right now, with lots of marketing and growth. But they’re really just focused on the nutrition and convenience part of it. They don’t have that focus on how it comes full circle with farmers, with the environment, nutrient density and all those things. They’re a little more focused on convenience. For us, it’s about feeding your body, helping to give back to the community, and regenerating the environment that we’re all a part of.
TH: It’s a good message, but how do you plan on spreading the word—and your delivery territory?
JM: We’re definitely ramping up with a couple marketing initiatives, one launching today and one in early February. We also do catering. We have some stuff in the pipeline. We’re speaking to a copywriter and an e-commerce person to refine our messaging and the way we convey who we are on our site. As for growth, we have a commissary kitchen in Springfield Township but we’re looking at a new space in Kearny. I’m hoping things work out! If so, we’ll probably be there in the next three months.
To see if mademeals services your area, check here. You can also check the website for a sample of meal plans and a look at the current menu. McBride says the website will be updated in the coming months as mademeals launches two big marketing campaigns, so stay tuned.Click here to leave a comment