Get back to the table with Red Apron’s comfort food

The Red Apron’s owners, Jo-ann Laverty (left) and Jennifer Heagle

One way to enjoy sustainable food in Ottawa is to get it directly from a local farmer. Another is to buy it from a retailer like Ottawa’s The Red Apron.

Launched in 2006 by Jennifer Heagle and Jo-Ann Laverty, The Red Apron prepares fresh, eco-friendly gourmet meals in an effort to get people back to the meal table to enjoy good, wholesome food.  Menus  highlight seasonal ingredients from regional producers and dinners can be ordered by the day or the week, for pick-up or home delivery.  In the weeks before the holidays this year, customers are invited to drop by the store on Gladstone Avenue to stock up on festive pies, cakes and other treats. From the holiday menu, you can also pre-order a whole, herb- roasted turkey with all the trimmings, traditional tourtière, or bison, sweet potato and cranberry pie

Besides its meal service, The Red Apron sells ready-made foods from farms and small businesses in Eastern Ontario and Western Québec that meet the owners’ requirements for sustainable, ethical production. In the store, you’ll find Major Craig chutneys, Michaelsdolce jams and jellies, Juniper Farm sauerkraut, Clarmell-on-the-Rideau goat cheeses, Pascale’s ice cream and more.

In addition to being experienced entrepreneurs who’ve run several other businesses, Heagle and Laverty are busy mothers with strong ties to their communities. Here’s a Q&A from my interview with Jennifer Heagle.

 What motivated you to start The Red Apron?

People are so busy it can be hard for them to get a good meal on the table at the end of the day. There’s a lot of guilt around this, especially for women.  Jo-Ann’s and my goal is to help people who don’t have the time to cook to get back to the table with family and friends and enjoy delicious, healthy, well-prepared food. We also want people to have a chance to experience the high-quality, flavourful food that’s available from the producers and small family food businesses in the region.

Is there lots of demand for your meal service?

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we prepare and deliver 150 to 200 meal portions. We cook another 200 to 300 portions each day that we sell through the retail store.  These numbers are even higher on holidays and other peak times.

Why did you decide to put sustainability at the heart of what you do?

There’s such a strong connection between the health of the environment and the health of the food we eat. Before Jo-Ann and I started this business, we agreed that if we were going to spend the money and take the risk, it had to be for something worthwhile. No compromises. So we set some firm criteria for the taste, quality, healthiness and sustainability of whatever we prepare or sell.

What are your criteria for choosing suppliers?

Every ingredient we use or sell must be traceable. In other words, we want to know where it came from and how it was produced.  In season, we buy most of our fresh produce from local, usually organic, farmers. Our meat comes from producers in Ontario and Québec and as much as possible, it’s free of hormones and antibiotics. Our fish is ethically farm-raised, or wild-caught and sustainable. Our dried goods — beans, pasta, flour and sugar — are organic. We don’t use products with GMOS, artificial ingredients, preservatives, trans fats, dyes or MSG. And while we can’t accommodate dietary restrictions or allergies, all our meals are prepared from scratch with whole ingredients.

Is your food packaging sustainable?

Packaging for the food we deliver is all biodegradable, recyclable or re-usable, and we put the largest amount of food in the smallest container. As a business, we send very little to landfill. Most of our waste is either recyclable or it’s vegetable compost that our farmers feed to their cows, pigs and chickens.  

Does The Red Apron support community?

We feel a responsibility to contribute to the health and well-being of our communities as well as ourselves. Besides buying from local producers who grow delicious food in eco-friendly ways, we also donate food to certain organizations and community events. We look for opportunities to feed good food to people in need or to kids who might not have had the chance to try different foods.

Call The Red Apron at 613-695-0417 or visit them online

 Do you have enough time at the end of the day to prepare a healthy meal? Share your stories and solutions.

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One Response to “Get back to the table with Red Apron’s comfort food”

  1. Valerie says:

    Thanks for the kind words. As for providing related articles, I plan to run semi-regular posts called Great Good Reads About Food and Farming that provide summaries of and links to various online articles about sustainable food. I’ll have one coming out in the New Year, so stay tuned!

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