Personal chefs for seniors provide more than meals.
Stirring things up: Barrett Allman of Chefs for Seniors prepares healthy dinners for the elderly. Here, Allman is making one week’s worth of meals for a customer right in his home.
Photograph by Todd Maughan
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
When it comes to the independent, elderly population, nutritional concerns often trump others because it’s not just about whether a person is eating but what he or she is eating. Chefs for Seniors aims to alleviate that worry.
After a year of testing the concept on their own, Barrett Allman, a long-time restaurateur, and his son, Nathan, 22, launched Chefs for Seniors as a solution to a critical problem they were noticing every day. “A lot of the people coming into our restaurants were seniors,” says Nathan, co-founder and COO. “We’d ask them what they ate at home and often they’d tell us popcorn, or frozen dinners, or baked potatoes.
“We saw a big need out there for healthy dinners, so it seemed intuitive to us. If your sink is broken, call a plumber. If you need help with meals, call a chef.”
Chefs for Seniors has prepared meals for 150 seniors and has 70 ongoing relationships. “We want to take that 70 and add zeros to that,” he says.
Many customers utilize the in-home service on a short-term basis to help after a surgery, for example. No contracts are required.
For $12 per meal or $20 per gourmet meal (all organic, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, etc.), a professional chef visits a client in the home. Within two hours they produce and package a week’s worth of customized meals. “It’s like a show in their own kitchen,” Allman explains. “The chefs get all four burners going, they’re flipping food in a pan, chopping vegetables quickly, and baking in the oven. Their efficiency allows us to charge reasonable rates for our meals.”
What they’ve learned is that the socialization almost becomes more important than the food, and the chef visits become the highlight of the week for many. “After a while I knew what my customers needed almost better than they did. Eventually I started designing their menus for them. It’s a huge relief for families.”
That customization is what makes Chefs for Seniors unique compared to other meal delivery services, he says. Seniors are often on restricted diets — low salt, low sugar or, if a person is taking the drug Warfarin, they must stay away from dark, leafy greens. The chefs take all of that into account as they plan meals with the clients.
There’s another benefit, as well. They provide another set of eyes on a family’s loved one, and they can alert families or caregivers if they notice something out of the ordinary. “The food actually becomes secondary,” Nathan explains.