Parasto Momeni was born in Iran, then moved to Canada as a child. The daughter of a single mom, she graduated high school at the age of 16 before studying at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Parasto entered the workforce immediately after high school, working in a variety of fields including nursing, investing, and real estate before realizing her true calling and becoming a professional chef. She has since opened a restaurant and founded the Pret a Mon’ger meal prep delivery service. She now owns a catering business, as well. Parasto Momeni donates surplus food from her businesses to Ronald McDonald House Charities. She currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Tell us why you got into catering, and what you think of the industry.

I run two businesses: the catering company and the meal prep company. I started the meal prep company first, about 6 years ago, and I have my sister to thank for that. She was into competitive fitness, and I was preparing her meals for her. Tracking all of her macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats), that sort of thing. I saw an opportunity there—to make her food healthy, but also to make the meals taste good and look good. So that’s where it all started.

The catering business was something I got into during the pandemic, and I view that more just as a good business opportunity. I had seen how well the business had done before the pandemic, but due to the sudden downturn, the owner was selling it off. I jumped on that opportunity because I had seen what the business was capable of, and I knew from my experience with the meal prep company that I had the skills and the business strategies necessary to make it successful again.

What surprised you the most when you started your career in catering, what lessons did you learn?

Honestly, the amount of work surprised me. I work long hours 6 days a week, even though I have twin toddlers at home. When I started out, just cooking for my sister, I had no idea what I was in for. But long hours are necessary, especially with small businesses, if you want them to succeed and grow.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in your industry?

I would tell someone who’s just getting into this industry that they need to make meals they’re proud of. It’s not good enough to just phone it in. Customers don’t just want easy meals, they wantgood, nutritious, enjoyable meals. They also want variety. And if you’re not offering that, they won’t have a hard time finding somebody else who does. You’ve got to make the sort of meals that you yourself would be happy to eat every day.

If you could change anything about your industry what would it be and why?

I think I would try to reign in the disproportionate appeal of fast food. People like fast food because it’s easy. It’s convenient, it’s cheap enough to incentivize that convenience, and it tastes good enough. And it’s in the forefront of our minds all the time because we see it everywhere. But it’s not healthy. It’s not good for us. And because we see fast food all around us all the time, we often don’t realize that healthy options are available too. We don’t realize that we can have it both ways—we can have convenient prepared meals that are healthy, taste good, and cost about the same as fast food. I’d like to see greater awareness of healthy, convenient eating options. I’d like to see parents start their kids on healthy prepared meals instead of fast food.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

I dedicate the first part of my day to work. I wake up early in the morning, and I go into work, I work, and then I come home. But after 6 pm, I put away my phone. I don’t answer phone calls, I don’t use my phone, and I don’t look at anything related to work again until after my kids are in bed. I dedicate evenings to my kids. Now, once the kids are in bed, I get on the computer and work until it’s time for me to sleep. But my evenings are always family time.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

Maybe this isn’t the most exciting answer, but I would have to say that it’s my computer. It’s an invaluable tool for keeping everything organized and keeping all the various elements of my business clearly laid out and on track. In particular, QuickBooks has been great for that.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

Definitely my mom. She was a single mother, and we moved here from Iran when I was a young child. She did the best she could for us, she always worked hard, and she managed to balance work and family through it all.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

That I need to work hard, even through the most difficult parts of life. another piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten is that things change in life—not everything stays the same—and whatever happens, whether or not the changes are welcome, we just have to keep moving forward and keep working hard to make things better, because it does make a difference.

What does success look like to you?

This might not be the sort of answer that your readers are looking for, but for me, success is raising my kids well. Success looks like raising my kids to be good people with a good work ethic. Success is raising my kids to be kind to everyone.

Where do you see your company in five years?

Within five years, I see Pret a Mon’ger growing to become one of the best and most successful meal prep companies in British Columbia.

What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?

Put simply, eat healthy. Eating healthy is such an important, yet often neglected aspect of life. Eating is one of the main things in life—people eat three times a day, every day! If you eat healthy, you feel better. You have more energy. You get stronger. It’s just so important – if you’re not eating healthy, you can live better than you’re living right now. And remember, eating healthy can taste good, too. The idea of eating healthy doesn’t have to bring back vague childhood memories of adults telling you to “eat your vegetables.” Healthy foods can be tasty. There’s no reason not to try it.