SEED SPOT Venture, Qapproved, Welcomes First ‘Qapproved’ Restaurant

Written by on November 13, 2013 in Startups - No comments

Qapproved is the first and only comprehensive food allergy training program for food handlers, certifying restaurants, hotels, and schools. In turn, creating a reliable network of allergy-conscious establishments and making it accessible to diners everywhere. MoniQue Shaldjian (Q the Chef) is the brains of the operation and her venture, Qapproved, is one of the 17 companies selected to take part in a local startup incubator, SEED SPOT, where she has been learning lots from their community of mentors, while raising awareness about her company.

MoniQue’s Occupations: Founder of startup Qapproved, Writer, Social Media Expert, and Culinary Nutrition Specialist.

MoniQue A. Shaldjian Culinary Nutrition Specialist

GrowSW: I saw that you are a Culinary Nutrition Specialist and also attended the Le Cordon Bleu, where you trained as a Chef. Have you always wanted to work in the culinary world?

Q: The culinary world is something that I discovered when I was 21. I actually thought that I wanted to become an investment banker. I also dabbled in real estate and banking before I discovered my place in the culinary world.

GrowSW: Do you have food allergies? How did that fuel your idea to start Qapproved?

Q: Food allergies have been prominent in my life for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I was allergic to tomatoes, and after I grew out of that allergy, I could not eat shellfish or nuts. Currently, I am allergic to nuts, and as this allergy progressed, I am now sensitive to seeds as well.

GrowSW: Wow. That sounds like you’d have to know a lot about food and nutrition, especially when ordering a meal from a restaurant. How many people have food allergies in the U.S.? Do you know why some people develop food allergies later in life?

Q: There are nearly 16 million people suffering from food allergies in the U.S. However, if you add the people who must follow strict food restrictions like Celiac or Crohn’s patients, that number is easily over 20 million. There are several reasons why some people can develop food allergies later in life, and that could be genetics, over-exposure to certain foods (i.e. wheat, corn, dairy, etc.), or simply their age. There are two peaks in life when you can gain or lose an allergy, and that is right around the age of 12 and 30. This is why it’s difficult to find a cure for food allergies and exactly why we need to educate our food handlers on food safety precautions, especially when serving this population of diners.

GrowSW: How did you get involved with SEED SPOT as a 2013 Fall Venture?

Q: Before I graduated from Arizona State University, I took a field trip to SEED SPOT with one of my nutrition entrepreneurship classes. I was incredibly inspired by how much good was coming from one office. I found the motivation that I needed to start pushing my startup forward. Naturally, when I found out about the open application, I applied.

GrowSW: Recently, I saw that you have signed your first Qapproved restaurant. Can you tell me more about that?

Q: Yes, Top of the Rock, located at the Buttes Marriott in Tempe, will be the first Qapproved restaurant in just a few weeks. This restaurant not only has great food and awesome views, but also is committed to educating their staff on food allergies, to ensure they are safely feeding their guests. Top of the Rock has seen as many as 10 people (per day) mention food restrictions when ordering. I would like to commend Top of the Rock and Chef Gregory Wiener for recognizing the power of food allergy education.

Monique and Top of the Rock Restaurant, the first Qapproved restaurant

Q’s and Top of the Rock Restaurant, the first Qapproved restaurant

GrowSW: What process would a restaurant need to take to become Qapproved?

Q: At the present time, the Qapproved certification is being implemented in an in-person training that can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 weeks, depending on the time allotted to train and learning speed of the group. We can begin training shortly after a restaurant contacts us to sign up.

GrowSW:How do you like being a SEED SPOT venture? What have you learned that you didn’t already know? Do you think that your pitches have improved?

Q: Being a SEED SPOT venture is great, especially since you are surrounded with like-minded entrepreneurs on a daily basis. Learning how to take so many grand ideas and narrow them into 1-3 sustainable branches, within Qapproved, has been one of the greatest lessons I have learned from SEED SPOT. In addition, my pitches have improved dramatically , and now, I am more excited than ever to keep pitching Qapproved.


GrowSW: What does Qapproved need for a successful future? Investors? Media attention? Proof of concept?

Q: Qapproved is looking for funding for the tech portion of the company. In addition, we ask that the media help us raise awareness about the serious problem that we have here in Arizona regarding the lack of training, and the solution to the problem, that is Qapproved. We are also looking for the next 5 restaurants and hotels that would like to be Qapproved.

Qapproved-PreCertificationGrowSW: I think I just heard a great invitation for the restaurant industry to contact Qapproved! Customers do care about how their food is handled and it sounds like the perfect business partnership- food handlers and allergy experts.

GrowSW: What is the best advice you’ve received?

Q: The best advice I have received is to remain “slightly uncomfortable” on a daily basis because the greatest achievements come from being outside of your comfort-zone.

GrowSW: Is there anything you would like to add?

Q: Qapproved is not only an educational tool for food handlers and restaurants, as we also provide education for diners. We are looking to bridge the communication gap and responsibility between both parties to create seamless food allergy prevention practices. We will be launching the first phase of the Qapproved website before Christmas, so please visit now to sign up for email updates on Qapproved. Keep up with Qapproved on Facebook and Twitter.

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