Personal chefs serve generous helping of convenience

They shop for ingredients, then prepare and package meals in clients' kitchens

February 09, 2003|By Jennifer Blenner | Jennifer Blenner,SUN STAFF

Thyme for You LLC, a personal chef service in the Towson area, is expanding to Harford County.

Personal chefs Beth Andresini of Towson and Jon McGovern of Bel Air spend their days tailoring meals for their clients. The company provides a service for new parents, working parents, people on the go and homebound individuals.

"It gives families more time to spend together, by bringing the family back to the table," Andresini said, adding that, as a mother of two boys, she knows the challenges of balancing family and work. "How many times a week can you have macaroni and cheese and pizza?"

A year ago, Andresini left her paralegal career of 23 years to start the personal chef service. Although she is not a professionally trained chef, she had more than 23 years of experience cooking for her family. She was watching a TV show on the Food Network about personal chefs and realized that this is what she wanted to do with her life.

"It was like this huge door just opened up in my face," Andresini said. She added she has always had a passion for cooking and helping others. She began researching the business on the Internet, and by March 1, Thyme for You was born, and she had her first client lined up.

The business now serves six families every other week, one family weekly and three people monthly.

Andresini custom-designs each meal. The prospective client goes through an interview and fills out a questionnaire of food preferences. The services cost $100 for the grocery deposit, $50 for a container deposit and $200 for three entrees, which include side dishes, and $25 for each additional entree.

"This is for anybody. It can be reasonable because you have control over the groceries" by choosing the foods and where the chefs shop, she said.

"I really want to be hands-on with the client and make sure they get what they want," Andresini said.

Andresini recently hired McGovern because of the number of people who want the service, she said. McGovern will cover Harford County.

McGovern worked as a executive chef of The Main Street Tower in Bel Air and The Crazy Swede in Havre de Grace.

He met Andresini through a next-door neighbor and decided to change his job.

"I would never set foot in a restaurant again after working three weeks for Andresini," McGovern said.

Before 8 a.m., Andresini leaves her house in her red minivan to begin her daily ritual of shopping at the local supermarket to pick up specially ordered meats, fresh fruits and other ingredients for her clients. She said she buys only the freshest foods and top-quality products.

She cooks everything from sloppy Joes to filet mignon, Andresini said, adding that she also prepares low-fat meals and foods based on dietary needs. While her clients are out, Andresini prepares the meals at their homes and packages them.

"It is a very personal service, just for them. I am part of their family," she said.

One of her clients, Nancy McManus, a mother of six, said Andresini is a lifesaver.

"With the children's schedules, sports and other activities and the challenges you have with a family with two working parents," she said, "we were going to fast-food places a lot and eating unhealthy."

McManus said she has had Andresini as her personal chef for about six months and that once every two weeks, Andresini cooks four meals for her family.

"I can choose whatever meals I want," McManus said. "If I see a nice recipe, I will give it to her, and she will make it for me."

McManus said the biggest advantage is the quality of food. "It is extraordinary," she said. "It is not processed, it has no added preservatives, just real good home-cooked food that you can eat in your home that is effortless."

Andresini said she wanted to expand her company and hire more chefs. "My dream is to build a network of personal chefs," she said.

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