The key story that unlocked the vault…
The idea to start Chef’s Vault came about as a result of a catastrophe. Our team had just procured 3,000 LBS of 5-6oz lobster tails for a large restaurant chain (we won’t name names) in March 2020. At this point, it was becoming clear that COVID-19 was a global pandemic and that everything was about to change. One result of the pandemic was that our then-customer didn’t need their order anymore, and we had a large inventory of lobster on our hands.
Not only did we have 3,000 LBS of lobster tails but also a wide selection of seafood at our fingertips. To top it all off, we had just helped launch 8 Acres, a grass fed and organic beef company. We had steaks too! But what to do with all of this premium meat and seafood?
With inbound interest from our friends and family who wanted sustainable, premium-quality food delivered to their homes, we started shipping and launched Chef’s Vault. We received over a hundred orders in 4 weeks, and knew we had to forge ahead.
Today, Chef’s Vault prioritizes delivering the highest quality of ethically sourced meat and seafood within Ontario. Our goal is to inspire consumers to sharpen their skills, broaden their taste buds and re-ignite the fire of their at-home cooking.
R&D was founded by long-time friends Ian Ritchie & Michael Delaney. For Sherlock Holmes reading this, yes, the R stands for Ritchie and the D stands for Delaney. Neither Michael nor Ian’s backgrounds initially began in the food industry. They first began their careers in corporate jobs doing corporate things. They were fish out of water.
Their life journeys took them in an unexpected direction. The food biz. Michael worked for an abattoir in Saskatchewan and Ian became a commercial vegetable farmer in Ontario. Over the next 5 years, they learned how to drive tractors, break down cow carcasses, grow vegetables, market their products, and learned the benefits of sustainable agriculture practices.
In June 2019, Mike and Ian decided that it was time to take everything they had learned and start their own business. They started R&D to work with the best suppliers Canada (and the world) had to offer and connect them to restaurants, grocery stores, and wholesalers across Canada.
Chef’s Vault Commitment to Sustainability
In the agricultural and fisheries industry, there are champions in the space. These champions aren’t necessarily the largest. In fact, more often they are the smaller/medium sized operators. Operators that take meticulous care in what they do and how they do it. They care because it’s in their blood. It’s their passion. They need it to be perfect. These producers, in our opinion, represent the best in the food space. Fortunately for all of us, many of them follow sustainable practices.
At Chef’s Vault, our commitment is to not only provide you with products from the best suppliers in Canada (and in some cases other countries) but also to make it easy to follow a sustainability mandate that aligns with ours.
In terms of seafood, we typically only source products that are Ocean Wise or MSC certified. However, there are rare exceptions where defining sustainable fisheries isn’t so absolute. For example, our Baffin Island Turbot & Char are not MSC or Ocean Wise certified. This is because MSC certification is expensive and can take years to acquire. In this type of instance, we take a more hands-on approach. We spent time to learn that the fishery catches everything by hand, they only catch small batches at a time, there is no bycatch, and they never hit their DFO designated quotas. In short, we know our suppliers well, we know how they operate, and whether they are sustainable.
For land-based proteins, sustainability certifications are less prevalent, so building strong relationships is key. Our beef supplier, 8 Acres, is the pinnacle of a sustainable operation. It removes an enormous amount of carbon from the atmosphere, regenerates the land around it, and treats the animals humanely. More broadly, whenever we procure chicken, beef, pork, etc. it is with suppliers who raise their animals humanely, on pastures, and without antibiotics.
This is our commitment as Chef’s Vault. We care about where our food comes from and just importantly, we care about the world we live and how it will look in years to come.