Local Food, Healthy Eating: Personal chef markets convenience with subscription meal plan

Andi 1Eat healthy. Eat local. Eat organic. We know we should be doing it but sometimes it’s just such … a pain. To help your resolve, one local chef is making it more convenient and delicious.

Andi Pellicci, a personal chef, caterer, developer of custom spices and nut brittles and owner of As You Dish, has started a subscription meal plan specializing in local foods and healthy eating. Her 500-calorie and 750-calorie meals are both gluten-free and dairy-free. Fab Fresh Foods is run out of Pellicci’s kitchen at the Grand Traverse Foodshed Alliance.

Pellicci, 42, moved into the new space just before Christmas. Previously she worked from a rented kitchen with limited availability. Her personal chef/catering business is thriving, but she always wanted to be able to cook “multiple meals for lots of people.” The subscription plan allows her to do just that, with combinations of lunches and dinners, four-day plans, two-day plans and family plans. The meals are delivered fully prepared and just need reheating.

Customer Amy Reichard is thrilled with the service, which has helped her lose weight and feel better, she said. “I needed to have food in my fridge that was ready to eat so that I wouldn’t have to choose – because I didn’t choose well all the time.”

With Fab Fresh Foods, “I don’t question what I eat because I know it’s good for me.” Reichard, owner of Revolution Design and Printing, works long hours and rarely has time to cook. She gets two lunches a week, usually on Wednesdays, and often eats them for dinner or spreads them out over two meals.

Pellicci said most people are focused on the deliciousness of the food and don’t really think about the gluten-free, dairy-free aspects. “If I never said it, people would never know,” she said. She’s been cooking healthy food for years and has a plethora of recipes to choose from, but admits there are still challenges. She always includes a vegetable, a protein and a starch (quinoa and rice are common) and all the meals are packaged in microwavable dishes, complete with heating instructions and nutrition labels. Meals are delivered on Mondays and Wednesdays, either to the customer’s home, business or an agreed-upon common location, like Bodywise Fitness and Wellness in Elk Rapids.

A typical lunch might feature pork banh-mi lettuce wraps with tangy carrot slaw or Southwest chicken salad with black bean and corn salsa. Dinner could be chicken cacciatore with herbed brown rice and seasonal vegetables or turkey/beef meatloaf with parsnip-cauliflower puree. The 500- and 750-calorie meals are the same, just portioned differently.

Pellicci gets most of her produce from Providence Farms in Central Lake during the growing season; the farm also supplies greens and herbs during the winter. Pellicci finds other ingredients at local stores or from her Grand Traverse Foodshed Alliance neighbor, Cherry Capital Foods.

A four-day plan of 500-calorie lunches and dinners costs $459/month, the 750-calorie lunch and dinner plan costs $619/month. Lunch-only for four days is $249 a month (500 calories); dinner-only plans for four days are $269/month. The four-day family dinner plan is $499/month for dinner for two, $729/month for dinner for three and $929/month for dinner for four.

Pellicci knows of no other local meal subscription plans, but national company Blue Apron offers a family plan of four recipes a week (cooking is required) for about $560/month or $9.99 per meal.

Fab Fresh Foods is high quality and healthy, Pellicci said, and everything is made from scratch with northern Michigan ingredients whenever possible. She also pays her employees well – something that’s important to her. All the meals are delivered ready to go, requiring just a few minutes in the microwave (or oven, if you prefer).

“It’s basically what you get with a personal chef, but I’m not cooking in your house,” she said.

Pellicci hopes to partner with local fitness centers to arrange pickup sites, so hungry patrons can grab their ready-to-heat food after a workout. She’s also mulling a plan with smaller portions for lighter appetites.