Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Buy a Share of Your Own Personal Chef with FEAST Together

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2012 at 8:41 AM

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I'm sure many of us have dreamed of the luxury of having a personal chef to plan our menus, shop for us and prepare healthy delicious meals every day. Unless you write or sing bucketfuls of country hits or are sitting on a Scrooge McDuckish pile of money, then you probably figure the idea's just a pipe dream. But now some entrepreneurial young advocates for healthy eating have come up with an innovative plan that's so crazy it just might work.

Benjamin Surmi and Jenny Vaughn Harrison are the co-directors of FEAST Together, an organization founded to empower the community by creating community kitchens to provide healthy and sustainable foods. Their model is a little bit complicated, but basically they have established two kitchen spaces where local chefs can work to create meals for distribution to subscribers.

And they've already enlisted three pretty prominent cooks to lure subscribers for the upcoming winter term: Martha Stamps, Matt Bolus and Casey Dailey.

Think of the concept as a kitchen version of a CSA. Subscribers pay a fee to sign up for a particular chef for a quarter and then can buy prepared meals at discounted rates for pickup or delivery once a week. If you don't want to sign up to support a particular chef, you can also buy from any of the chef's menus to plan your own weekly dining, albeit without the cheaper rate.

No matter which way you do it, the chefs commit to use local seasonal ingredients whenever possible, so you can be sure that you're purchasing the freshest food available. FEAST Together is still looking for new kitchen spaces to expand the program, but the roster of chefs they've already signed up is impressive.

The first to toss her toque into the ring was Chef Stamps, a longtime local favorite and an early advocate for local and organic food. The structure of her meal plan involves a membership fee based on the length of the term and the number of diners participating. Basically, it works out to about $7.50 per meal per person for chef-prepared, healthy food and admission to a regular Wednesday night supper that Martha hosts at West End United Methodist Church, which is the same night and location of her weekly meal pick-ups. All her dishes are packaged in either glass jars, BPA-free reusable plastic or recyclable aluminum tins.

Chef Bolus, meanwhile, is about to celebrate his first anniversary of moving to Nashville, and we're glad he's here. He has worked at Watermark and Flyte since coming to town (from Charleston, S.C. where he also won acclaim), and now you can have him cook just for you. In an unusual twist, he has chosen to create a completely gluten-free menu whenever possible, emphasizing a variety of whole grains like quinoa, brown, red and purple rices, millet, amaranth, oats and wild rice. His sample menus look really interesting and are surprisingly affordable, averaging out at less than $3 per meal for him to prepare your food. Of course, there is still the cost of food on top of that fee, but it looks like a real bargain for him to plan, shop for and cook your meals as well as providing weekly kitchen tips.

The young up-and-coming cook helping to kick off the winter term is Casey Dailey. He focuses on heartier, but still healthy foods during the winter season. "Each week, you will receive a box with the prepped essentials for the next few days meals along with suggestions, tips, and techniques for reinventing these items throughout the week. These items — filled out with a few from the FEAST Storehouse — provide you with a bountiful menu. All you have to do is put it together — and we'll show you how!"

Finally, there's an option for people who love the flavor and health benefits of fermented foods and beverages like kombucha, sauerkraut, chutney and "other cultured foods infused with probiotic life and deliciousness," crafted by Megan Adair and Krysta Kaczmarzyk.

If you're still not ready to commit, weekly options are available, and anyone can buy from the FEAST Storehouse after paying a $35 seasonal fee.

I know this is kind of complicated with so many options and offerings. Visit the FEAST website and poke around to learn more about their philosophies and programs. If you have specific inquiries, email them to info@feasttogether.org. Signups for chefs are currently under way and the season will begin as soon as each chef reaches a critical mass, so don't dawdle.

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