Back to the Dinner Table
Chef Debi Stuckwisch takes her passion to dinner tables across the region with Meals Like Mom’s.
One of Debi Stuckwisch’s favorite memories is when she first started cooking. At three years old, she stood alongside her mother and grandmother “helping” as they made jams, pies and biscuits. She also remembers their loving reminders for her to be healthy and eat her vegetables.
Those memories had a lasting effect. All through her childhood and into her adult life she knew food not only nourished a family, but kept it together.
She remembers sitting with her now-grown children at the dinner table – talking, learning about their days, keeping the family connected to each other and of course, cooking for them. Those were simpler, slower times.
Fast forward to now and she said she hears a common complaint: mothers wishing they had time to put a healthy dinner on the table for their families that are always running from one end of town to the other, trying to fit in all their scheduled activities. It’s one of the reasons she became a personal chef and launched Meals Like Mom’s.
“I can’t tell you how many women who tell me they wish they could get their kids a healthy meal,” Stuckwisch said. “They feel guilty about it.”
The time families spend in the car running from activity to activity is not spent talking to and connecting with each other because portable media and game players, and in-car TV/DVD monitors have made it a fortress of solitude. Stuckwisch believes the only time a family has to talk is at the dinner table. “That’s what it’s made for,” she said. “It gives you time to taste the food and take stock of your family.”
Time-Saving, Healthy Meals
Her passion for food and her desire to bring families back to the dinner table moved her to give up a successful career in the corporate world and establish a business that “takes the biggest, most time intensive chores out of your hands,” she said. “I save my families 20t to 25 hours per week.”
Stuckwisch said her service takes over a family’s menu planning, grocery shopping, meal preparation and offers cooking directions so that anyone in the family can get a dinner going.
“Meals like Mom’s really is a lot like Mom’s cooking,” she said. “It comes from your house, your kitchen. I just happen to be cooking it.”
She said she takes clients’ favorite dishes and twists them up just a bit to make them healthier. “This usually means just using fresher ingredients,” Stuckwisch said.
How it Works
When she begins cooking for a new family, she takes them through a collaborative process that uncovers their favorite dishes and tastes and dietary restrictions.
Afterward, she puts together a weekly menu that is reviewed and approved by the family. “It is purely personal, whatever they like,” Stuckwisch said. “Someone in the family likes spicy, someone likes bland. The menus are tailored to your specific needs.”
Once approved, she heads off to the grocery store or the farmer’s market. She brings the groceries directly back to the family’s home and starts cooking. “I typically cook for six hours straight,” she said. “Everything is fully prepared for you, including the cooking instructions.”
Part of the Family
When she talks about the families she serves, a huge smile crosses her face and a twinkle appears in her eyes. “I take it very personally,” Stuckwisch said.
She said she often feels like she becomes a part of the family she is serving. “One child needed 75 cookies for a school function, so he asked his mom, ‘Can Chef Debi make the cookies?’” Stuckwisch recalled.
“Chef Debi has been the best thing that has happened to our busy household in years,” Kildeer homeowner Carolyn Gable said. “As a business owner with three teenagers, I often find I cannot keep up to prepare healthy meals, let alone do all the grocery shopping! She not only does all the cooking and shopping, she prepares all the week’s meals. Whether I am at home or not for dinner, it is prepared for them each night and it takes minutes for them to heat up.”
“I’ve even had a mom ask me to make something out of her mother’s personal cookbook,” Stuckwisch added. “That’s rewarding.”
Stuckwisch said dinner together gets the family back to its core values. “It instills self-esteem in kids because parents are talking to kids about their day,” she said. “It strengthens the family bond. It’s the only time you really touch base.”