Ali Emdadian and Reza Soleymani
Ali Emdadian and Reza Soleymani see food and medicine as one and the same. Chicoans may recognize Emdadian, who has been filling prescriptions as a pharmacist at Rite Aid since 2010, but few likely know he’s been licensed in India and Iran as well, and has practiced since 1992. Soleymani found himself drawn to the food-service and hospitality industries, and worked at start-up restaurants in Dubai and Iran before coming to California, where he studied nutrition and food science at Santa Monica College. He moved to Chico, his girlfriend’s hometown, in 2015, and met Emdadian (pictured, at left) shortly thereafter. This past September, the two opened TEB Pantry, which offers precooked meals layered in glass jars. They consist of natural ingredients, including quinoa, lentils, kale and microgreens, rotating seasonal produce like jicama and butternut squash, and exotic spices like saffron, which the two say acts as a natural metabolic enhancer and antidepressant. Check them out on Facebook, where you can find their latest jar offerings, or call 650-1420 to place an order for their weekly deliveries.
How did you two meet?
Soleymani: That’s an interesting story. Uber launched in Chico Halloween 2015, and I signed up the first day. Ali was my first customer, and it was his first time using Uber.
Emdadian: I sat in the back and looked up—we Mesopotamian people have a look, and we both noticed. I asked, “Are you Persian?” And we talked about our past, and found out we shared these ideas.
What inspired you to start TEB Pantry?
Soleymani: I used to work at Chuck Patterson, and we had catered lunches sometimes. I ran the numbers, and it was about $3,000 every two weeks, and saw the potential. I would bring my own homemade food that interested my co-workers … and some of them started buying it.
Emdadian: It was difficult to convince myself to stop working pharmacy full-time, but I was filling more and more medications to treat type 2 diabetes, and other diseases that can be prevented more often by focusing on eating healthy.
Why the name TEB?
Emdadian: In Farsi, “teb” means knowledge of medicine. Food really is medicine. Your cells in your body are constantly updating, like a computer, but food is the information it uses. We tried it on ourselves first—I’m 50 years old now and feeling the healthiest I ever have.
Any customer feedback yet?
Emdadian: One of my older pharmacy clients who never had much energy said he was able to start gardening for the first time in a long time, and attributes it to the food and eating healthier.
Soleymani: One customer asked, “Did you put caffeine in this? I’m always sluggish after lunch, but not with your food.” But no, it’s just the natural ingredients.
Where do you get your ingredients?
Emdadian: We source as much locally and organically as possible. We even started growing our own sunflower microgreens. They’re packed with nutrition and we use them in nearly all our meals, but they can cost up to $25 a pound, and you can’t always find them.