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Gourmet meals as close as the freezer

Husband-and-wife chef team from Ladner launches batch.food., which takes frozen dinners to whole new level
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Ladner's 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 venture 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, 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 up 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.

"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 they moved into their new location in June.

"So far, we have been selling online and through word-of-mouth," said Joanne, 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 ground turkey bolognese, braised pork ribs, gluten free panko crusted chicken fingers, baked or barbecued ling cod and Thai green chicken curry.

Both come with years of experience in the hospitality industry. The two met while working as chefs in Banff.

When Morgan 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 to take his apprenticeship and train with some of that city's top international chefs. Morgan has since worked in many prestigious hotels, including the Rimrock Resort Hotel, Banff Springs Hotel and the Empress Hotel.

Joanne 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 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.

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 $18, or four Wasabi black bean boneless, skinless chicken breasts cost $17.

For more information about batch.food., visit

www.batchfood.com.

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