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Paul Sparkes
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Personal chef lets her clients escape kitchen duty

Jennifer Wellsman checks with a client on food preferences. Her business was launched early this summer and she is building her client list.
— Photo by Paul Sparkes/The Telegram

Sometimes a remark in passing can launch a business.  A friend of Jennifer Wellsman once said casually, “Oh my, I wish I had a personal chef!”

That friend was in the middle of opening her own store and there just wasn’t enough time in her days to prepare good meals.

That wish stuck in Wellsman’s mind.

A wife and the working mother of two small children, it’s not like Wellsman’s days weren’t full. But she had always loved to cook, and the business idea intrigued her.

This summer, everything came together. She launched Thyme to Dine: Personal Chef Services, and she’s already welcoming clients who enjoy the freedom of not having to cook supper when they get home from a day’s work.

How does it work? In a standard two-week service for two people (five weekdays per week), the client chooses five meals (such as shepherd’s pie, sweet and sour pork, fish florentine, penne cheese bake and mild beef curry).

Wellsman buys the foods required to make the selected dishes and she then goes to the client’s home for a “cook day.” Each dish provides four servings, and they are portioned, packaged and either frozen or refrigerated. They are also labelled and the heating/serving information provided.

The total number of meals in the  two-people, two-week sample is 20. The cost is $325, which includes the cost of the ingredients, a $25 fee for reusable plastic snap-top containers and $100 for reusable Corningware (freezer to oven to table) — unless clients have enough of these themselves.

Clients can also sign on for a month of meals at a time.

“I like to think that what I am providing for the client is not only delicious meals each evening, but I’m giving them back some of their valuable time,” she said.

“There’s no puzzling over what to get for supper, no hassle in the kitchen and no major cleanup. I solve your ‘what’s for dinner?’ problem.”

Thyme to Dine customizes its meals to client preferences and that includes menu flexibility and allergy considerations. Wellsman keeps a record of client choices.

She started planning her one-woman business when she was on maternity leave.

“My father always said whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it … you’ll be doing it for a long, long time.”

She thoroughly enjoys cooking, she knows good food and she knows nutrition, and she was confident there were people who would love to have someone else do the food-buying and meal preparation.

“Although I have only been operating Thyme to Dine for a matter of months, I already have a number of clients and the potential for more is certainly looking good,” Wellsman said.

She takes clients in the St. John’s metro area.

Organizations: Personal Chef Services

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