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VOL. 40 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 26, 2016

Gallatin chef offers healthier in-home choices

By Hollie Deese

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Galen Williams thought his Knoxville grocery delivery service, Plan-It Organic, would appeal more to a younger demographic. Not so.

-- Adam Taylor Gash | The Ledger

Marirae Mathis of Who Cooks For You? Personal Chef Service based in Gallatin says her business has evolved to meet customer needs.

She started out as a chef in someone’s home in Hendersonville, then grew her meal delivery business to a size that at one time included seven employees.

She has since scaled it back so it is just her again and aims to serve four people a week, delivering all around the Nashville area, including Murfreesboro.

“My business is really based on customized services that’s based on health,” she points out. “I can follow any kind of healthy regiment of eating, whether it’s little kids with allergies or people who just got out of the hospital and need to heal.

“Heart patients, diabetics, people that just want Paleo. As long as it’s healthy, I’ll do it. I don’t do anything that’s unhealthy and I don’t make any desserts.”

It is a business plan that helps appeal to caregivers who want to maintain the health of their loved ones, even if they are too busy to take on meal prep themselves. With Mathis’ food, it is already cooked and packaged for quick and easy reheating.

“Elderly people fall into a horrible predicament in that they’re tired of cooking,” she says.

“All of the sudden they’re buying these prepackaged foods that they weren’t used to eating all of their lives.

“They were eating fresh vegetables out of their own garden and preparing their own food.

“Now, they’re eating Lean Cuisine, and they’re health is failing. They’ve got high blood pressure. They’ve got diabetes. It’s a diet change.”

It also is because of her plan to cook and prepare meals to fit a personalized diet that Mathis doesn’t consider grocery delivery companies like Blue Apron or Terra’s Kitchen competition.

“I really try not to pay much attention to that,” she says. “I’ll be honest, I was a little bit worried that they would possibly take away from my business, but what you’re getting is basically your groceries to your door.

“You still have to prepare and cook it, and so many people hate to cook.”

Everything Mathis delivers has reheating instructions right on top, usually just a little bit of time in the microwave. “It’s very, very simple,” she says.

Mathis’ clients pay for the groceries, and then they pay her as a service. She has new clients fill out a detailed food questionnaire to glean as much information from them as possible so she already knows going in if they’re lactose intolerant, gluten free or Paleo. After the first delivery she sends them a client satisfaction sheet.

It’s a level of personal attention she knows the national companies just can’t compete with.

“In some cases they become like my family,” Mathis says. “I really care about cooking for them. I think that really helps me create their food, because I know where it’s going. I see their faces.

“I deliver all their food personally. I’m in their homes. I meet their children, their dogs. If something changes in their family, I’m right on that.”

Real, healthy choices

Busy moms and dads were Galen Williams’ target audience when he first launched Plan-It Organic grocery delivery in Knoxville two years ago.

But he has found it is the elderly or infirmed – and the people who care for them – who make up a large portion of his customer base.

“When I initially started it, I marketed to the time-is-money sort of people,” he says. “It didn’t take very long for me to realize the market was going to be a little bit older than that.

“Knoxville has actually got a pretty dense retirement community so I worked primarily with a lot of people north of 60. If they are not north of 60, they are typically unhealthy or diabetic, something like that. That’s most of my deliveries.”

Sometimes he even gets calls from out of state relatives who want food delivered to a grandparent or a sick friend.

“I’d say well over half of our deliveries are to elderly people,” Williams says. “Then I’ve got a small group of people who are in perfectly fine shape and just don’t like going to the grocery store, which is a market I targeted when I first started.”

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