Joanne Lechner recently won Tourism Richmond’s Steveston Visitor Centre’s most outstanding pie competition for her balsamic black pepper strawberry rhubarb pie.
The win was a sweet one given she and her husband Morgan Lechner, both chefs, just launched a new venture together called batch.food. — a company offering gourmet frozen meals to families and professionals too busy to prepare healthy meals themselves.
“We are really busy parents ourselves and we don’t like store-bought fast food or processed food for our kids so we started making our own healthy frozen food,” said Joanne Lechner, who has an eight and five year old.
The concept behind batch.food. is simple. People go to the website and check out the menu selections, order online and the food is delivered on Mondays, or available for pick ups from their site near Richmond’s Ikea on Fridays.
“I had an idea years ago that came from a similar program at a Delta hotel about packaging wholesome food,” said Morgan Lechner. “Joanne and I thought why don’t we freeze fresh, healthy food for people who don’t have time to cook themselves but like to eat nourishing meals.”
The couple initially began trying out recipes in their home kitchen, and selling their products to friends and family. They received such a great response that they moved into their new location on June 15.
“So far, we have been selling online and through word-of-mouth,” said Joanne Lechner, adding she has one part-time cook helping her right now. “People typically order one to two weeks in advance.”
They offer four to six new menu items every week, entrees such as brown turkey boullabaise, braised pork ribs, gluten free panko crusted chicken fingers, baked or barbecued ling cod and Thai green chicken curry.
“All of our seafood is Ocean Wise,” added Morgan Lechner.
Both come with years of experience in the hospitality industry. The two met while both working as chefs in Banff.
When Morgan Lechner isn’t helping his wife at batch.food., he’s the executive chef at the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel, a post he’s held for the last four years. He began his foray into the industry as a teenager growing up in Victoria.
He then headed to Banff, Alberta to take his apprenticeship and train with some of that city’s top international chefs. Morgan Lechner has since worked in many prestigious hotels, including the Rimrock Resort Hotel, Banff Springs Hotel, and the Empress Hotel.
Joanne Lechner studied culinary arts at Malaspina College before moving to Banff to complete her Red Seal Chef Certification. She has worked as a chef in top resorts and hotels across the country, and as the pastry chef at the River Rock Casino Resort for five years before retiring as a product designer at a major cake manufacturer.
“I like all aspects of cooking but I love the visual of desserts,” added Joanne Lechner.
Frozen, prepared meals are not a new idea. There are many companies across the Lower Mainland who cater to those who want “warm and serve” dishes prepared for them, so they can enjoy a epicurean meal in the comfort of their own home.
batch.food. touts itself as offering restaurant-style gourmet meals, using fresh, local and sustainable seafood and meats, as well as produce and fruits at a fraction of the price you’d pay in a restaurant.
For example, a one kilogram portion of Thai red prawn curry dish, complete with roti and baby potatoes (serves four), will cost you $18, or four Wasabi black bean boneless, skinless chicken breasts costs $17.
As far as taste, one of the pie competition judges, MLA Rob Howard, said the pie was “absolutely delicious.”
“I’ve never eaten so much pie in such a short amount of time,” he quipped about the contest. “I must confess, I’m not an expert but the burst of flavour, the amount of fresh fruit and the proportion of fruit to crust in Joanne’s pie were very good,” said Howard.
When asked what Howard thought of the concept behind batch.food., he said, “What a great service in this day and age when people are both really busy and conscious of what they are eating … it’s a great idea.
“Often too, if we buy, we need to buy in bulk and this idea sounds really good for those of us who don’t want to or need to buy huge portions.”
For more information about batch.food., visit www.batchfood.com.