Forced out of client kitchens, firm sets up shop
In your dreams: end of a long day, the fridge is devoid of anything without a scary expiration date and you’re ravenous.
In walks your personal chef.
That dream is closer to reality — at least geographically — with the pandemic pivot of Simple Earth Cuisine. Lisa Caccamise, a Garrison resident who is its owner and executive chef, has been running the company since 2007 but only recently shifted its focus.
Before the pandemic, the chefs from Simple Earth cooked in their clients’ kitchens. Working couples were the mainstay of the business. All that changed in March.
“It didn’t come from my clients that they didn’t want us in their homes [after the shutdown began], but I was feeling the trepidation from my chefs,” says Caccamise. “Just going to the grocery store felt scary. The clients didn’t have to say a word to me. I said to them, ‘If you would like to have us deliver, we will.’ ”
Initially Caccamise thought her chefs could cook at their own homes and deliver. When that proved to be a logistical challenge, she began looking for a commercial kitchen. She found what she was looking for in Washingtonville, in Orange County, and moved the company there in July. She sells coffee and baked goods through a service window of the former breakfast spot.
Caccamise started her career as a theater stage manager but the late hours and lengthy commute wore her down, she says. She took some time to consider her options.
“I read an article about a woman who was a personal chef and took a seminar,” she recalls. “I had no formal training, but I thought, ‘I’ll practice with a few clients, then go to school.’ She cooked for clients in Rockland County and Bergen County, New Jersey, but gradually started hiring chefs and managing the business.
Simple Earth’s menu was derived from Caccamise’s own dietary needs.
“In 2005, as a chef, I self-diagnosed myself as gluten-intolerant before people knew what it was,” she recalls. “I had a knowing feeling that healing is through food. I started with gluten-free eating but, at that time, there was nothing. I didn’t get my first gluten-free client until four years later. Now we have many requests for keto-genic, low-carb meals, and also a lot of gluten-free and lactose-intolerant options.
“My main clients are people running in 15 different directions who want more than 10 minutes with their partner or family at a meal,” she says. “We also have empty nesters; they want someone else to take the reins. Lately we’ve been finding three meals for two people is the most popular.
“We have some families of four, but actually, young children are tough. I could make healthy chicken fingers, put veggies in their mash, but pretty much they want mommy’s cooking. The only way to get them to eat is to make it with them. I usually suggest instead to get the children to bed, get a glass of wine and call it a date night, because force-feeding never works.”
New clients fill out a dietary questionnaire which helps in personalized menu planning, Caccamise says. This is followed by a discussion over the phone.
“People want good food that’s light and satisfying,” she says. “They lean toward American, Mediterranean, Indian-fusion and Thai flavors. People always want boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But if we offered meatloaf with mashed potato and greens, everybody would take it — comfort meals are what everybody is looking for now.”
After a long day at work in Washingtonville, what does Caccamise cook when she gets back to Garrison? Actually, she does her own takeout. “I’ll look in the freezer, pull something out, cook it and transport it home,” she says. “I’m kind of a personal chef for myself. Tonight I braised a beef brisket, made side veggies and salad. I’ve adopted my crockpot as my personal assistant — that’s how we eat.”
Simple Earth Cuisine’s weekly meal-delivery plans range from $90 for a two-meal plan for one person to $600 for a five-meal plan for six people. Meals arrive in stainless-steel containers that can go from the fridge or freezer to the oven. See simpleearthcuisine.com or call 646-902-4488.