In the early days of managing her prepackaged meal company, Gourmet By Numbers, Heather Amalaha’s life was a series of transitions from one kitchen to another. After dropping her kids off at school shortly after 7 a.m., she would drive to the rented kitchen she used to prepare meals, where she remained until it was time to head home for a few hours and cook dinner. Later that evening, she was back in the rented kitchen.
At its core, the company revolved around an idea that she had been fostering since college: to provide healthy, ready-to-cook meal kits straight to customers’ doors. After a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, the business has grown to include seven employees and a brick-and-mortar location in North Austin, where chefs prepare meals that customers can then cook in less than 30 minutes.
“I was working in corporate America, and I realized how hard it is to get a home-cooked meal on the table before my kids had to go to bed,” Amalaha said. “That’s when I decided it was something that I wanted to really pursue. These are meals that you’re not gonna just throw in the oven and reheat. You really get to have a hand in the cooking process.”
The “Numbers” in Gourmet By Numbers comes from the meal kits’ numbered, prepped ingredients that customers combine to cook meals such as Indian-spiced turkey and vegetable chili, rosemary pork chops and shrimp pad thai. Customers can select from a rotating menu that offers 30 meals a month, and then either pick up the meals or have them delivered. Amalaha spends her days delivering, shopping for ingredients, consulting with her chefs and handling orders.
“I think you know that it’s gonna be hard [to start a business], but until you’re doing it, you don’t really know how hard it’s going to be,” Amalaha said. “I’ve never worked this much in my entire life, but at the same time, I’ve never been as rewarded for the work that I’m doing.”
Amalaha enlisted her brother, UT alumnus Brendon Davidson, to build and maintain the Gourmet By Numbers website. Davidson, who majored in computer science at UT, recalls seeing entrepreneurial drive in Amalaha from an early age, when she began selling baked goods at the end of their driveway.
“She’s always been smart and driven, but I see her becoming increasingly more confident and decisive,” Davidson said in an email. “I’ve worked in startups pretty much my entire career. With Gourmet By Numbers, I’m finally working on something that really helps people. It’s extremely refreshing and has renewed my passion for the work.”
Amalaha also recently hired nutrition senior Rebecca Salajan as a marketing intern. Salajan said that she was drawn to the kits because the ingredients come pre-cut, pre-washed and ready to use.
“I think that’s one of the coolest things, because I always end up throwing away a bunch of food at the end of the week,” Salajan said. “It’s hard, as a college student, to get accustomed to the routine of making food.”
Amalaha said the difference between Gourmet By Numbers and national competitors such as Blue Apron or Super Suppers is her relationships with local farmers to source local, organic ingredients. Currently, the company delivers as far north as Highway 45 and as far south as Oak Hill. She said she hopes to eventually expand the company’s reach to other areas besides Austin.
“That really is a plan for the future,” Amalaha said. “Our goal right now is focusing on Austin. The food scene here is amazing. The variety of chefs and farms to purchase from is really great.”