We chat to Wayne Kaminsky, Founder, and CEO of FitChef, about the journey of creating a company for people who understand you are what you eat, and that healthy eating must be convenient to succeed.
Like most good stories, it starts with solving your own problems and saying, “Well, this works for me, hopefully, it can do the same for others”. Being quite an active person myself, and very involved in various sporting events I was really pushing myself quite hard. With all the exercise, I was burning a large number of calories and eating fairly healthy, trying to make healthier choices, but I just was not at the weight I should have been.
Around 2009, there was a stage where I was on 14 courses of antibiotics, I was sick all the time, my focus was not there, I was never feeling good and I was still slightly overweight taking into account the amount of exercise I was putting in.
I then entered MasterChef and as I started cooking in preparation I began questioning why are these ingredients in my food. I did a lot of experimenting using real food ingredients that had to come directly from nature – only whole foods and that was what I was going to cook. I did tons of cooking, making 54 meals in one night and having 35 people over for a nine-course meal as I just had so many ideas of things I wanted to do so out of that FitChef.
I decided with making all this food, and with all the containers of food I had frozen, to only eat the meals I had prepared with natural ingredients. I did this for 21 days and almost immediately I came off the antibiotics for the first time in two years. I dropped the weight and I felt absolutely awesome, my focus was good, my energy was great.
I decided then to create a company that made only real food that is prepared and frozen, which is convenient with the goodness locked in. That was the journey because it worked for me so surely it has to work for others. Everyone battles with time issues and food selection issues, you do not really know what good food looks like because everything out there says I am healthy on the label but turn it around and it is not. I wanted FitChef to be a company that was truly healthy but also truly delicious.
The one really big thing is that there is a lot of food out there stating their food is healthy but going through their ingredients it is full of artificial flavorings, added sugars, colorants, tons of water, and flour for instance. This should make you think where is the “real food” in here.
While others are all claiming to be healthy, I really strongly believe that we are the only ones with ingredients as close to nature as possible. We print our ingredient labels really large, we are very open about our ingredients and you only see real food being used and that’s how we cook.
We take time in cooking our meals to include loads of vegetables to get the flavors so you have nutrient-dense, fiber-rich and really tasty food. If you compare our labels to the others we are miles apart, we do not put in any junk, it is all real whole food and it is all delicious.
What I believe is that a lot of these trends come about for good reasons – people need these trends, something new to follow, new ideas, or concepts that challenge our beliefs.
What you will find is that most people who follow a trend will eventually move towards a normalizing of the diet. If you are following these diets strictly, to the extreme, you can’t socialize, eat cake at a party, or fit in life’s treats.
Food is such an important part of our lives, it is where you connect with people, we think around food, talk around food. If you go too strict with a diet, for one, you cannot find food, it is not easy to find a strict banting or strict keto meal in the shops. That’s why we provide for most of those trends, we have very strict keto meals built around strict keto principles but then our other options are all strictly no additives, no preservatives, real food only.
What I find is that people tend to move back towards our normal food because when you are eating real food that is the actual aim. We have our strict, specialty diet ranges and then we have the meals that cater to a longer-term lifestyle. We work with the trends but also provide a wide range of real food that you can move on to.
If it comes from nature, it goes into our food and we go for the most original version of that. For example, meats are free-range, and salts are in their natural state providing trace minerals.
Our food gets made to very high regulatory standards, chilled very quickly, brought down to strictly controlled temperature, packaged, and then straight into blast freezers which lock in the goodness maintaining the quality of the meals. Freezing is nature’s way of ensuring you get the nutrients that were there in the first place.
Despite the name, FitChef is not specifically for fit people only, it is more lifestyle orientated. It is for people who want to be healthier or very healthy. We serve a lot of cancer patients, and organizations work with us to put people who are on treatments on healthy diets. There are extreme athletes, cross-fitters, yogis, tri-athletes, and also a lot of support from guys that are doing big body-building and transformations from our food.
So we do cater to a wide range of people but I would say that our average customers want to be healthier, have failed on lots of other diets, and find they just need the repeat of having good food in their freezer every month. They tend to be very busy people who have not got the time or do not enjoy cooking and just want a healthier lifestyle that is convenient and works.
We are mostly based online but also available in some retail stores. We also work with dieticians, some doctors, and personal trainers who recommend their clients to the program.
In general, the average customer comes to us online and starts with a challenge. Very often when you want to make that move to be healthy you have a goal, something that drives you.
Our Best Results kits include 53 meals and 36 smoothies with snacks for instance. It is a real big mix and variety of meals and you just start eating and experience the results. From there we find a lot of people get particular or want specific types of meals and move through to their own selection.
People enjoy the whole lifestyle, the convenience, taste, and wide range of the food and then sign up for a recurring order. We now offer a range of groceries too, for example, 60-hour fermented sourdough bread, sourdough burger buns, and sourdough pizzas offering the best version of what you can find in that category.
Our dairy all comes from organic principle farms from free-roaming, grass-fed cattle. When good food is just delivered, and your freezer is always full it becomes far easier to actually live a healthier lifestyle.
Every stage of the business is always exceptionally tricky, especially having the guts to launch and push the button to go big. In the beginning, we operated quite small, running one campaign, making enough food for three weeks, and then selling out after two days. We were not making enough food and eventually had to go bigger.
Growth is always going to be a challenge for a business – it takes a lot of courage and you are terrified all the time. Initially, we grew too fast, we doubled in size every year and hit speed-wobbles, systems falling over, staff not coping, suppliers under pressure, environmental challenges with load-shedding, strikes, and emergencies. The one thing that is the toughest for an entrepreneur is learning to manage things. We have made a lot of mistakes along the way, which everyone does, and in hindsight, we could have avoided a lot of it just by having more knowledge.
We are busy with our new app, we have a whole new website with some very high-end systems coming in. We will be launching recipe kits as well, there are more strict keto meals coming soon and we have some really nice treats.
We have a new range that I am calling FridayNite. It’s a range of DIY pizzas and burgers – the pizza kits come with a 48-hour fermented sourdough pizza base, which is utterly delicious and a range of toppings for you to build your pizza as you like it. Personally I will probably never order another pizza or burger from a restaurant. Once you have had a sourdough-base pizza and you have had the control over making it your way, it is just so much better.