A few years ago, Real Food founder Tessa Lowe found herself in a high-intensity corporate job, struggling with her weight and suffering from poor gut health, all the while finding it harder and harder to achieve her training goals despite a highly disciplined approach- she was working out and weight training multiple times a week. After substantial personal research, Lowe came to understand that what she ate was a key part of the story so she set about preparing nutritionally well-balanced gluten-free meals with an emphasis on substantial protein and unrefined carbohydrates. The meals worked really well. Within a few short months, she has a lost over 6% body fat, her lifting got stronger and her gut was on it way to recovery. At first, she was bringing in the meals for herself and her boyfriend straight from her own kitchen. Soon, trainers and other gym-goers at the studio where she worked out (and where she brought in the meals) started asking where the meals were coming from. In a short amount of time, she was bringing in a couple of dozen meals a day. Clients loved her food. Her secret was prepping the day before and cooking the morning of delivery, thereby ensuring freshness and a made by hand signature quality. So successful was the part-time venture, she decided to quit corporate life and start what at the time was called TLC and was one of the city’s first healthy meal subscription services with a focus on fitness folk (if not the first).
For personal reasons unrelated to work, she ended up back in her home country of New Zealand for most of 2015. She spent her time avidly researching ingredients and suppliers. She became extremely passionate about responsible sourcing, not only from a environmental point of view, but also in terms of health benefits. Lowe returned to Hong Kong with a renewed focus and her new company, Real Food, war born. These days, Lowe still puts together recipes and meal plans but she no longer makes the meals out of her own home kitchen- she has a Chef and cookstaff onboard to help and meals are made from a licensed food factory kitchen.
Real Food offers a variety of meal subscription options. You can start with a 3-day trial package if you want to test out the food or you can dive right into 10 or 20 day packages. Real Food packages can include 3 meals a day, 2 meals day or Lowe offers a lunch only option for the office crowd, which has proved extremely popular. Her meal plans come in two main forms: Urban Paleo and Gym Package. The former is a little lighter, great for regular maintenance, whilst the latter is geared towards those with more intense training schedules with breakfast taking the form of a regular meal. Both are protein-heavy.
A typical day will start with a Bacon & Egg Muffin, followed by a lunch of Coffee Rub Shredded Grass Fed Beef with Spinach, Almonds & Garlic. Dinner is a Lemon Rosemary New Zeland Salmon with Cauliflower Rice & Seasonal Salad. Another variation includes Raw Shredded Coconut, Berries, Chia & Almond Cereal with Organic Greek Yoghurt in the morning, a Chicken Cacciatore with Zucchini Noodles midday and New Zealand Slow Cooked Lamb Shank with Raw Cauliflower Tabouli in the evening.
At first, Lowe wasn’t concerned about calories. On her original plan for herself, she had refrained from counting calories, focusing instead of regular eating, balanced macros, cutting out low quality starches and the right quantity of protein (Lowe is adamant that most of us are protein-deficient). Eventually, demand from customers resulted in her listing out calories and nutrition profiles for every meal. Each one averages from 300 to 450, for a total caloric intake of approx. 1, 200 on the Urban Paleo version. Those with larger appetites can add extra sides such as Coconut Rice or Sweet Potato Hash Browns. Clients can also supplement with Real Food Organic Bliss Balls, protein snacks for when they are on the go or have a craving.
From the beginning, her focus has been on the ingredients. As a devoted Kiwi, Lowe is sometimes left scratching her head with how difficult it is is to find the right food suppliers in Hong Kong. By her own admission, she continues to struggle with sourcing and is constantly fighting with her suppliers to provide customers with what she terms ‘food with integrity.’ Her chef and cook are both devoted to the cause too. Beef and lamb are pasture-fed or grass-fed- she stays away from anything grain-fed. Poultry including the chicken and eggs she uses are organic and raised in the open air. On the seafood side, they source fish that is wild-caught whenever possible, otherwise they choose sustainably-farmed, low-mercury fish from down under waters. She works with Tasmanian and local suppliers on the produce side of things, and the fruit and vegetables are organic, seasonal and farmed by known entities. It’s not an easy battle to fight- sustainable & responsibly sourced ingredients are more expensive, more limited in terms of the quantities they can provide and more inconsistent- it’s all very weather dependent. Still, Lowe is deeply committed to continually sourcing only the very best quality ingredients and is willing to persevere. The more she learns, the more inspired she is to make the right sourcing choices. All of Real Food’s packaging is compostable and biodegradable, which is saying something in a city where styrofoam takeaway containers stubbornly continue to be the norm.
Currently, Real Food delivers across most of northern Hong Kong Island from Quarry Bay all the way to Sai Wan- they also have a few clients in the ICC building in Kowloon. Her clientele is very corporate-heavy. Real Food is working towards more delivery points but at the moment, the company has more than enough orders to contend with- having only been launched for a month officially, they are serving 30 meals a day and counting. Lowe has gotten nothing but positive feedback regarding food quality and taste- her customers very much appreciate her mission and value proposition, which thrills Lowe to no end. Having started on this journey for her own personal health, she is grateful to be sharing her learnings with her growing client base!
A 3 meal a day, 20-day Real Food Urban Paleo Package will run you approximately HKD 8, 940, or HKD 449 a day. For exact pricing including the 2 meals a day or lunch-only plans, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.