Chef Parasto Momeni Interview on Founding a Meal Preparation and Delivery Service

Originally born in Iran, Parasto Momeni moved to Canada as a young child. She graduated from high school at age 16, then studied at Simon Fraser University in Canada. She worked in a variety of professions, starting as soon as she graduated high school. Her professional experience includes investing, real estate, and nursing.

Finally she found her calling as a chef, and since then she has opened a restaurant, created a catering business, and founded the Pret a Mon’ger meal preparation and delivery service (the name Pret a Mon’ger is a play on the French phrase ‘Pret a Manger’, meaning ‘Ready to Eat’). Parasto tailors her menus toward healthy eating with a strong focus toward expanding the availability of healthy, convenient, tasty, and affordable meals. She aims to prove that healthy eating options can be just as affordable as grabbing takeout from a fast food restaurant.

Parasto Momeni resides and works in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Pret a Mon'ger

Can you tell us how Pret a Mon’ger was conceived?

The idea came from my experience helping my sister. She was into fitness and bikini modeling, and she was getting meal preps made to help keep her nutrition on track. The meal preps were healthy, but they just didn’t taste good. So, I decided to start making meal preps for her. I calculated all of the macros (fats, carbohydrates, protein) and made sure her nutritional needs were covered, but I also experimented with using different spices and such, trying new things to make her meals both healthy and tasty.

I started out working from my condo, just filling meal orders for my sister and a few of her friends, but then I rented a commissary kitchen space and started advertising my services, and it really took off from there.

Can you walk us through an average day in the life of Parasto Momeni?

I wake up at around 6 am every morning. I spend the morning with my kids until around 9 am, then at around 10 am, I get ready for work and my nanny looks after the kids for the day. I go to work from 10 am until 6 pm, and then I come home, make dinner, and spend time with my family. After the kids are in bed, I work online until about 1 am, when I finally go to sleep for the night.

How do you come up with the unique, signature meals your company is known for?

I start by playing with the ingredients I have on hand to see what I can mix and match and what tastes good. After that, I look at foods from around the world and their ingredients, and I try to draw inspiration from that as I’m planning new meal preps.

The goal for my meal preps is that they’re healthy, but also that they contain a variety of ingredients and give off a variety of different tastes. Even the best dish can become boring if it’s all you eat, over and over.

The key to culinary satisfaction is variety, so I have to always work on new ideas and new dishes.

Pret a Mon'ger

Is there a movement or trend that interests you?

I’m excited to see that people are taking their health more seriously than they used to. People are taking care of themselves more, whether it’s eating better or exercising more or finding a better work life balance. It’s great, and I hope this trend only grows in the future.

What would you describe as your best professional quality?

Working hard, I think. And finding specific ways to apply that work ethic to whatever I’m pursuing. Whether I’m working to come up with new and interesting dishes, or working to research promising new trends in my field, the important thing is that I work hard in all that I do.

If you had a time machine and travelled back to visit yourself in your youth, what would you say?

I would definitely tell my younger self to not waste so much time on pursuing so many different vocations. Instead, figure out what you actually want in life and pursue that. Go for what you actually want with everything you have, instead of splitting yourself up between who knows how many ultimately inconsequential pursuits.

Do you have an unpopular opinion you’d like to share?

Money does buy happiness. People like to say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does. Money buys comfort, and it buys freedom—the freedom to follow your interests and passions, and the freedom to live your life the way you want to live.

What is a habit you have that isn’t a business strategy per se, but has yielded positive results?

Never stop bringing new people into your life. Meet new people. Learn and understand their stories, and learn from their experiences. There’s a lot in this world that we can only learn either from our own experiences, or from the experiences shared by those who choose to share them with us.

What is one secret to the success of your business?

I don’t compromise on using fresh ingredients, and I think my customers know that. I also keep things fresh by always changing what’s on the menu so people don’t get tired of eating the same foods every day. Variety, fresh ingredients, and fresh ideas.

Can you describe an instance where your business overcame a significant challenge?

The most challenging thing has been dealing with the pandemic.

Having to spread out my workspace, working with people at a distance both in the kitchen and elsewhere, and even getting the food delivered properly—it has all been challenging throughout the last year and a half. But we’ve been persistent, we’ve continued to innovate even through these tough times, and now, as we’re emerging on the other side of the pandemic, things are getting better again.

Is there a new business idea that you think is the wave of the future?

It’s hard for me to suggest a specific business idea, because my firm belief is that you should follow what you’re passionate about. For your business to succeed, you need passion, work ethic, and determination, and all of that comes so much more naturally when you’re doing something you believe in.

What is the best money you’ve recently spent?

I and several friends donated to a charity for a little girl with multiple system atrophy (MSA). She needed a treatment that cost about $2 million, without which she wouldn’t have lived beyond about two years.

We helped out the charity in other ways, too. That whole experience really sticks in my mind. I can’t think of a better possible use of that money. I’m so glad that my friends and I were able to donate and pitch in for such a worthy cause.

Is there a piece of software that constantly improves your life?

We use WIX to help us manage our business. We use it to take orders, to publicly host our weekly menus, and it keeps track of our orders and billing as well. It’s a significant convenience, having all of that in one place.

Can you tell us one about one of your favourite books?

I would recommend Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman. It chronicles the unique evolution of American tastes and meal preparation as tied together by eight specific flavors, as the title suggests. The flavors are black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili pepper, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha, and the author kind of links them with America’s immense cultural diversity, as well. It’s a really fun and informative book.

Is there a quote or saying that guides you in your entrepreneurial journey?

“Just do it.” It’s something that I say all the time, and I think it really fits my approach to work and to life.

In summary, Parasto Momeni gives the following advice:

  • Follow your passion. The habits that promote success come more naturally when you believe in what you’re doing.
  • Don’t let the tough times get you down. Keep innovating, be persistent, and you’ll emerge through the other side stronger than you were before.
  • Variety is the spice of life, and that’s true for business, too. Keep innovating to keep your customers coming back for more.
  • Eat healthy. You’ll have more energy, you’ll be more alert, and you’ll be better equipped to find success.