Tucked away amidst the bustling restaurant scene in Niagara-on-the-Lake, there’s a gem unlike any other in the area, with a mission unlike any other. In a region known for five-star dining and world-renowned wine tasting catered to visitors, Staff Meal Niagara serves up healthy bites to fuel busy locals working in the region’s service industry as well as private and freelance workers.
Not to mention a few more twists—all of their offerings are plant-based and delivered right to you.
Meet the entrepreneurs nourishing the heart and soul of Niagara— Tania Ganassini and Amanda Ali, Co-founders of Staff Meal Niagara.
Who could have guessed that the path less travelled would lead to a thriving plant-based cooking career? Having initially never considered cooking as a viable career option, Tania went to university intending to be a kinesiology major. After taking three months off to backpack through Europe and do a whole lot of soul-searching, she took a cooking job two weeks upon returning home from her trip, went to culinary school and hasn’t looked back since. It didn’t take long for Tania’s career to take off after working in Toronto’s top restaurants and a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy.
Growing up as an avid Food Network junkie, Tania admits she idolized television chefs and never could have predicted she’d make it to the small screen herself. To date, Tania has showcased her talents on high-pressure shows like Chopped Canada and Top Chef Canada. But when the stressors of working in the city’s restaurant scene began to be too much, Tania took a chance and made a move towards a simpler life.
“I was thoroughly burnt out from restaurant life in Toronto. My dad, Marco (who’s a home inspector), was inspecting a home in the new Garrison Village and brought the neighbourhood to our attention,” Tania recalls. “We’d never considered living anywhere other than Toronto, but something in my heart told me that we needed to take the leap.”
Moving to Niagara-on-the-Lake
She quickly found that she’d made the right choice, finding a warm and welcoming home in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“We immediately felt embraced by the region, and within a month, it felt like home,”
Finding close, life-long friends in a region thriving on local business and a bustling event scene, Niagara started to feel familiar and comforting.
No wonder Tania chose to devote her business to fuelling the community that has given her so much. The health-focused meal delivery service that is Staff Meal Niagara was inspired by her own transition to plant-based cuisine following a close call with a family member experiencing a heart attack. After almost 10 years of cooking professionally, Tania became “plant-curious,” reevaluating the ways she could make positive changes in her personal health and now the health of others.
Alongside Co-founder Ali, Tania serves up delicious bites that have more than vegans seeking out a scrumptious meal. “Most of our customers are not vegan at all, but enjoy our food because it is vibrant, nourishing, and satisfying,” boasts Tania. “It is a plant-based business that appeals to everyone.”
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As if by fate, the dynamic duo met as co-workers at a local brewery and became fast friends with a shared passion for healthy eating. “We would talk about food and nutrition nonstop, often giving detailed descriptions of our previous night’s dinner. We had a text message stream that was comprised entirely of food puns,” she jokes.
“We were both simultaneously making healthy lunches and smoothies for our loved ones and noticed a major gap in the availability of convenient health food in the region. With our combined expertise, we knew we wanted to turn it into a business to provide a service we desperately needed ourselves,” shares Tania.
Staff Meal Niagara
Two-and-a-half years in, Staff Meal Niagara has carved out a niche spot for itself in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s renowned food and drink scene, offering meals for delivery and pickup including nutritious bowls and snacks. Now with their new brick-and-mortar home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, this offering has expanded to workshops and community events too.
Fully embracing their mission to joyfully nourish the souls and bellies of their community with the utmost respect for the environment, this is demonstrated in everything from their eco-friendly packaging, commitment to using local ingredients and building community around conversations about food. Notable offerings include their postpartum meal program for new parents and their “Random Snacks of Kindness” campaign. A personal favourite of Tania’s, the campaign allows the community to nominate someone they think could use a nourishing meal and the winner has a meal delivered as a surprise.
Not only is Staff Meal Niagara a business powered by passion, but every bite is packed with flavour and Tania’s fine-dining flair. “Because of my fine dining background, I like to create our dishes with the same principles that would apply to compose a plate in a nice restaurant: texture, colour, presentation, balance of flavours, acidity and seasoning,” she explains.
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A quick glance at their website offers a glimpse of their tantalizing tastes with items like their Rhubarbara-Ann chia parfait, Edward Caesar-Hands salad and Kale Me Maybe stew. Not only does their labour of love offer meals packed with nutrients that are big on personality, but they are also fiercely loyal to keeping their business locally-fuelled.
“We frequent the local farm stands and markets to connect with the producers and work with them as best as we can,” Tania explains. “Using their seconds is a great way to use product that would otherwise not be sold, but is just as delicious and beautiful.”
With their commitment to everything local, it’s no surprise Tania is proud to call Niagara region home. Her creativity is continuously sparked by both the region and its people.
“Niagara’s bounty is very inspiring, but I’m especially inspired by the people. There is a level of awareness around sustainability and supporting local businesses that is infectious and really promising,”
Whether you find yourself in need of a quick and healthy meal or are looking to explore the world of plant-based eating at a cheekily named workshop (try their “Grateful Ched” plant-based cheese workshop), or even a cooking class, there’s no denying the self-proclaimed #NiagaraProud eatery is well worth taking a plant-based bite out of.
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Staff Meal @ The Grove in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara Stone Rd. at E Side, Mulberry Ln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0