Chef services offer meal delivery to busy families, healthy eaters
A personal chef is one way to enjoy dining at home without all the bother of shopping, chopping and pot washing.
Less price prohibitive is the variety of local meal-delivery services, each with their own niche. Think of it as a personal chef you share with others.
These services differ from standard meal kits, such as Blue Apron, in that subscribers receive freshly cooked meals delivered right to the door.
Whether you don’t like to cook or are trying to stick to a strict diet, here are some that might be right for you.
Relish Kitchen + Catering
Three years ago, Kim Smith had a career change. A friend told her she should be doing more with her hobby food blog, and she transitioned out of an engineering job of 15 years to become a personal chef and caterer.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” Smith says.
Her goal from the beginning was to make day-to-day life easier for busy people, so her meal-delivery service was born. On scheduled nights, Smith drops off the prepared meals to clients herself.
“I enjoy face time with my clients, and I make sure I’m the one to deliver their meals to them,” says Smith.
Delivery is free within seven miles of her commercial kitchen in Morgan, and she offers a nominal delivery fee farther out.
When clients sign up for her service, she has them complete a detailed questionnaire analyzing their dietary needs and their preferences of proteins, spices, vegetables and dairy items, to name a few. Customized menus are prepared for each client. Groceries are purchased the day before Smith prepares the meals to ensure freshness.
Smith’s clients vary. Some opt to order a few meals a week to supplement the meals they cook themselves, while others order a monthly supply at one time and freeze them until they are ready to be eaten. Her prepared meals are delivered fresh, not frozen, and include entrees, sides and heating instructions. There’s freezing instructions, too.
Some clients follow strict dietary requirements. And she has families looking to incorporate more veggies and nutrients into family-friendly meals.
Some dishes include comfort-food favorites, such as bacon-wrapped mini meatloaf and chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles, and fancier options like seared filet medallions with a balsamic-cabernet reduction and Thai-inspired sea bass.
Pricing starts at $200, plus the cost of groceries, for six individual dinners of entrees, plus sides.
Ling Wollenschlaeger says eating healthy is not always that easy to do yourself. That’s part of the reason she started Pittsburgh Fresh, a paleo meal-delivery service.
When she first started the venture in 2013, she was a personal chef for the owner of South Side’s CrossFit Athletics, who really pushed her to expand her cooking service to clients all over the Pittsburgh region.
Paleo is based on eliminating dairy, grain and processed foods from one’s diet and eating foods that early humans ate, including meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. For Wollenschlaeger, it’s not a trendy diet. “It’s getting people to change their lifestyle and not jump on another diet train.”
Eating healthy has always been a part of Wollenschlaeger’s lifestyle. Growing up in China, she didn’t eat fast food or junk food. When she moved to the United States and eventually landed a job in corporate America, she was shocked by what people were eating.
Pittsburgh Fresh’s clients order meals online, ranging from grilled honey-mustard chicken with Brussels sprouts and sweet potato-topped chicken pot pie to lamb stew with root vegetables and butternut squash risotto with grilled chicken.
Delivery locations are chosen from a handful of fitness studios and other locations around the city. Meals can be delivered to guests at a few hotels Downtown.
The menu changes weekly, and each meal is between 500 and 600 calories, including a 6-ounce portion of protein and 7-ounce sides. They are ideal for those counting calories or looking to lose weight.
Individual meals begin at $16.99 with discounts for regular subscribers.
Who Made That? Food Doula
As a parent, Selena Eisenberg gets it.
“When you have three kids, you run out of food, even when your husband is a chef,” Eisenberg says. “We lived off pizza and takeout.”
Last month, Eisenberg and her husband, Matt, started Who Made That?, a food-delivery service focusing on new and growing families who have no time to cook.
“We want to do for other people what we wished we did for ourselves during our pregnancies,” Eisenberg says.
For postpartum clients, they offer prepared freezer meals delivered around 36 weeks into the pregnancy so new families have a freezer filled with hearty and healthy meals after they are home from the hospital.
They also offer fresh family meals, which just need to be heated in the oven.
Everything comes prepared. Eisenberg says the hardest part is reading the instructions on how to reheat them.
Each meal consists of a hearty meat, hearty starch and a well-seasoned vegetable. Her favorite meal so far has been the Greek meatloaf with gyro-inspired flavors made with Jamison Farms lamb and served with rosemary-mint mashed potatoes and mushrooms. Vegetarian and vegan options are available.
The recipes come from food they’ve been making for their family for years. Matt Eisenberg has 20 years of experience in the kitchen, having worked at Ibiza and Burgatory, while Selena learned to bake with her aunt at the age of 7. Their kids serve as test marketers.
Who Made That? operates out of La Dorita in Sharpsburg and offers free meal-delivery service within about a 7-mile radius. They will deliver farther for a fee.
Prices start at $200 for two days of the half-day plan, $350 for seven freezer meals.
Chip and Kale
Bloomfield-based Chip and Kale was started by partners Zita Edsall and John Lopez after Edsall’s freezer meals became popular with her friends.
The couple led busy lives, often finding themselves making and eating dinner around 9 p.m. each night. On her off days, Edsall decided to prepare and freeze meals that they could heat up in an hour or less after work. She started to do the same for her friends to show them how food could be good and healthy with little effort.
Chip and Kale’s vegan meal kits come partially prepared. All the prep work is done ahead of time: Veggies are chopped, sauces are made, and burger patties are assembled. All customers have to do is some minimal cooking that will produce a healthy and delicious meal in 30 minutes or less.
“You don’t have to be an experienced chef with our meals,” Edsall says. “All you need are basic pots and pans and some Level 1 cooking skills.”
Vegan and gluten-free meals are the focus of Chip and Kale because Edsall doesn’t eat meat. But, John does, so he serves as not only the prep cook, but as recipe guinea pig.
“He still eats the good stuff, like meat and fat,” Edsall says. So when he says something tastes good, she trusts him.
Five meals are prepared each week and delivered to the customer’s door. The meals typically offer three to four servings each, but family meal plans serving six to eight are also available.
Some popular meals include smoky red-beet burgers, African peanut stew, tater-tot casserole and Thai peanut pizza, to name a few.
Delivery includes all of Allegheny County and some parts or Washington, Westmoreland and Butler counties.
“This is the new way of cooking,” Lopez says. “Giving people choices to have decent meals without having to do all the shopping and prep work.”
Prices start at $99 for a five-meal package of three to four servings each.
Sarah Sudar is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.