After ten years of running an event catering company, Drew Munro realized there was a significant need for a healthy, prepared food solution that fell outside the scope of a traditional catering or meal delivery service. There was an opportunity to use technology and his years of experience to create a new service that could reach more people, help them eat healthier and more conveniently. These observations led to the launch of his latest passion—UpMeals.
A YOUTHFUL PASSION
Born and raised in beautiful BC, teenage Munro apprenticed under Paris-trained chef Brian Roodenrys, from whom he quickly developed a passion for the freshest local ingredients, beautiful presentations, and above all, great-tasting food. Munro received early recognition competing in local cooking competitions and was awarded the Provincial scholarship for culinary arts upon graduation to further his studies.
Over the next several years, he worked and apprenticed in several high-end professional kitchens throughout the Lower Mainland, developing his skills and a style of his own. After a number of years, the unthinkable happened: Munro accepted a job… in an office?
However, his time spent without cooking for others was short-lived. A lack of lunch options near the office left his co-workers consistently grumbling about their limited choices for fresh, healthy food, leading Munro to begin his office lunch service, providing home-cooked gourmet meals for his colleagues. He would arrive to work an hour early each day to deliver the meals to his office customers.
A COMPANY IS BORN
Word spread like wildfire, and soon Munro was spending his evenings cooking 50+ individual gourmet meals for his co-workers to enjoy the next day. With a newfound entrepreneurial spark, he realized the office grind was not for him, and a personal chef service called Drew Cooks! was born in 2008. His service provided home-cooked meals for busy families and professionals, as well as private dinners for special occasions.
Not too long afterward, Munro started to receive requests to cater weddings and more significant events. He hired his first employee in late 2009 and moved into a tiny basement kitchen facility in Burnaby that he shared with three other caterers. By 2010, he had become so busy that he had taken over the entire kitchen space and by 2011, needed to find an even bigger space to run the company.
By early 2016, the company had moved to a new office and operation facility and re-branded as Drew’s Catering & Events to better reflect the services and hard work of a collective of individuals.
Drew is a lifelong learner and has traveled to various parts of the world to study and learn, completing a Master’s culinary program in Italy training with the finest chefs in Tuscany, as well as a culinary program in Japan. Recently Drew and a colleague traveled to a remote area of Guatemala to volunteer their cooking skills at a camp responsible for feeding hundreds of volunteers and villagers each day.
“We realized the power of working with organizations that had goals already rooted in health and wellness for their customers or employees and decided to focus our company solely on helping them achieve those goals more quickly and efficiently through a branded wellness program tailored specifically to their organization.
“We helped companies and brands reduce costs, reach new markets, and generate new revenue streams almost right away. We knew we were on to something. Then we thought, why not help empower schools to do the same?
“I volunteer with an organization called Growing Chefs, which teaches elementary school kids about growing and preparing vegetables, as well as the importance of choosing local products. During my time in the schools, I was surprised to learn that the hot lunch program was essentially unchanged from my time in elementary schools. Pizza, hot dogs, ice cream and other unhealthy, processed foods made up the majority of the options.
“We partnered with two amazing companies, Kindermeals and Freshprep, to help us develop and roll out a program in pilot schools that started this Fall. We are currently preparing thousands of healthy, plant-based meals for students to supplement or entirely replace the currently unhealthy school lunch program.”
2019 was an incredible year for UpMeals – they provided thousands of plant-based meals for BC schools kids, disrupted industries historically known for unhealthy eating habits and helped amazing brands bring, nutritious, chef-prepared food to their customer bases. Drew says, “The response has been incredible, and in 2020 we now begin the next phase of our food accessibility mission using technology!” “We’re on a mission – nothing short of making healthy food accessible 24/7 and we couldn’t be more thrilled about this journey.” Keep an eye out around the city for new Autonomous SmartVending Machines (imagine a 4ft iPhone touchscreen that intelligently dispenses healthy food in compostable containers), that will be popping up soon!
Drew Munro has proven himself to be anything but a simple caterer. He is a plantbased champion using technology to disrupt the way people traditionally eat.
- Coleman Pete is a contributor for EcoLuxLuv Communications. Coleman writes about menswear, design, and culture, and can be found combing through vintage clothing racks or reading in one of his favourite cafés in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Read more by Coleman at OverdressedNW.com.
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