Gourmet Prep Meals: Giving Prep a New Meaning

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There are plenty of nights that I feel up to cooking, but not nearly as many nights that I feel up to braving the grocery store's long, rush hour-style lines. And there are plenty of times I want to cook but don't want to go out and buy an entire pound of ground beef or a whole jar of pesto when I'm only cooking for one person. Go ahead and judge me; sometimes I only have one night of the week to myself and it just doesn't make sense to buy a bunch of groceries I can't use. (Didn't you see John Gray's post from earlier this week?)

That's where Gourmet Prep Meals comes in.

The company, run by Houstonians Gur and Stephanie Tsabar, offers a range of prepared and boxed meals that can be delivered anywhere within Beltway 8 (Monday through Friday only) that only require minimal assembly once you're at home, in front of your stove.

Yes, stove. None of the Gourmet Prep Meals are microwavable. Instead, the ingredients inside each box come pre-chopped, pre-sliced, pre-diced and pre-measured so that you can actually cook the meal your own damn self. It's pretty refreshing as far as ready-made meals go, and all you need is salt, pepper, cooking oil and a few basic cooking utensils. Anyone can cook with the prepped ingredients and the simple instructions found inside each box.

But that's not the greatest thing about Gourmet Prep Meals. Not by a long shot.

Adoptive parents themselves, Gur and Stephanie consider themselves especially mindful of the sad state of our foster system. According to their website, "over 60 percent of foster youth find themselves chronically unemployed shortly after aging-out of the foster care system." The Tsabars wanted to do something to defy this statistic, and Gourmet Prep Meals was their answer.

Every time you order a meal from Gourmet Prep Meals, not only are you cooking yourself a relatively healthy meal and improving your sauteeing skills, you're also helping at-risk former foster kids learn valuable life skills. How? Because every penny of the profits goes directly to support these kids. To quote the website:

Gourmet Prep was created to combat this reality head-on, dedicating 100 percent of its profits and operations to training these youth hands-on in entrepreneurship by delivering fresh, ready-to-cook recipe kits to busy Houstonians that want to cook more and eat healthier at home.

How is this possible?

Because the kids themselves run Gourmet Prep Meals. They rotate through the company on a year-long paid internship, learning entrepreneurship skills along the way. Each quarter, the kids move into a different area of the Gourmet Prep Meals' "core business functions" while getting support along the way to realize their own goals and ambitions:

Backing our training program will be an integrated social support and case management system that works in concert with referring agencies. As part of their job requirements, our youth will have to meet regularly with trained Gourmet Prep managers to track the progress of their self-sufficiency goals. They'll also be provided with career guidance and advancement options, including the possibility of working with a partnering business incubator to propel their entrepreneurial ideas forward.

And if that's not enough to encourage you to try cooking your own Gourmet Prep Meal at home, just take a look through the online menu of choices created by chef Justin Turner, former private chef for the Rockets' Shane Battier and current owner of Bernie's Burger Bus. I took two of the meals home -- the mahi mahi over olive oil smashed potatoes with roasted garlic artichoke butter and the spinach-encrusted salmon topped with Creole corn salsa and a red pepper coulis, both for $12.95 -- to try them out myself. And I was more than pleased with the results.

The instructions inside the box are very straightforward and easy to follow. Yes, you'll dirty a skillet or two, but you'll also get a sense of satisfaction that's a little harder to come by when you're microwaving a frozen dinner. The mahi mahi and salmon were both delicious, and I found myself stunned after plating them: Did I make that? Yes, at least partly.

Gourmet Prep Meals also offers desserts through EOW favorite Sinfull Bakery if you place your order by 10 p.m. the night before your scheduled delivery. And the delivery charge is only $4.95 no matter how many meals (or desserts) you order. The meals themselves are made with fresh, seasonal vegetables and proteins, so they'll only keep in your fridge for about five days. But you'll want to eat them well before that time expires; trust me.

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