Making a meal of it

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The UAE is notorious for its fast-paced lifestyle. Whether at work or at play, people tend to be on the go all day every day, squeezing as much out of their experience in the region as possible.

As a result, certain things get pushed to the side. For many people the sourcing, preparation and cooking of genuinely healthy, beneficial food doesn’t fit into their busy schedules, leaving space for the ever-present convenience foods. Take-outs, fast food, ready-meals, and so on.

This was the case for Ajay D’Almeida, who worked at a security company in Al Karama until receiving a wake-up call from the doctor.

“I used to be a big red meat eater,” he explains. “I loved steak – anything red and bloody was my eating habit.

“My wife told me to get my cholesterol checked. I hate doctors but she was insistent, and then she got my mother involved as well so I had no option but to get checked. I was tested for diabetes as well, which is another big problem in the region.

“The diabetes came back fine but the cholesterol was sky high. It was three times the maximum it is allowed to be. It was insane.

“I was advised to exercise a little bit, but the main thing was to change my eating habit. I was working in Al Karama, which was food heaven for me. It had everything except healthy food. There was nothing I could eat there except fruit and salad, but there’s only so much salad a man can eat! So I started working on a business plan.”

D’Almeida’s idea was to put together a business which provided good quality, healthy food, bridging the gap that he had seen in the market first hand.

After spending several months looking at different possibilities, working on the numbers, and putting together a basic framework, it was a friend who gave him the final push to launch the business.

“I had told a lot of friends about the idea, and finally one of them said “you’ve been talking about it for months now – why don’t you just do it?”. And then he said something that changed my life. He said “next time we meet I’m going to write you a cheque for AED30,000”. And he did. He said to take it as an investment, or a loan, or whatever, and told me I didn’t have to pay it back. I was flabbergasted. It was at that point that I realised I might have had a good idea on my hands.”

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