For Chef Jenn Hanley Knight, “home” has been a variety of places over the years, from the West Coast to Amsterdam to her North Shore hometown of Merrimac. No matter her zip code, cooking and baking have always been preferences of Knight’s. Like many things, it began as a hobby that evolved into a full-scale profession. It was a move to San Francisco for her husband’s career that helped open the door from part-time jobs in restaurants to life as a personal chef.
Working in restaurants came with much excitement (and a lot of demands) and Knight wondered if there was a way to take all of her favorite parts of cooking and reinvent the way she was making meals for people. As she was contemplating this, life took Knight to Los Angeles and later back to San Francisco. But just as her personal chef business was hitting its stride, COVID-19 hit—making cooking in client homes a thing of the past in an instant. Almost as instantly, Knight tweaked her business model and started making and delivering meals to homes.
When the opportunity to move back East presented itself, Knight was thrilled to land in Newburyport. She describes the North Shore as being family oriented and says, “I quickly found there was a market for what I was doing. For many busy families it makes sense to farm things out.”
While cooking delicious, healthy food has always been a staple of Knight’s kitchen, she discovered that helping people out and simply making their days easier was having a major impact on their overall quality of life. Knight was cooking much more than meals; she was contributing to the health and wellness of families. She was relieving stress for busy professionals and giving parents time back with their children instead of time spent in the kitchen, and while she could put a price on groceries, she realized that so much of what she was cooking up was actually priceless.
In keeping with her goal of making delicious meals that take away stress rather than add to it, Knight emails her clients weekly with a proposed menu, which they accept or request changes be made. Whether it’s dinners for adults, meals geared toward kids, or choices that fall somewhere in the middle, for Knight, part of the fun is the variety.
Knight has found that once she has cooked for a family and received a nod of approval, so many families are willing to trust her and try dishes they would not ordinarily eat. Households that are not vegetarian or vegan might find themselves loving a dish that is, simply because Knight was able to introduce it to them. A week of dinners for health-conscious adults might include a vegetarian chili, fish tacos with mango salsa, guacamole and cabbage slaw, and turkey meatballs with grilled veggies and a minty yogurt sauce. No matter the dietary preferences, much of Knight’s cooking is designed to demonstrate that healthy and appetizing are not opposites, but rather partners.
Knight fields a good amount of questions about dietary preferences or restricted diets. From vegan cooking (which she personally loves) to paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, and more, so many of her recipes are easily adaptable. “Now is the time to have a food preference or a dietary restriction because there are so many good options and alternatives available,” she explains. Have a sweet tooth? Knight spent many years as a pastry chef and is happy to add on a dozen muffins, cookies, or other dessert items to client menus.
Perhaps one of the biggest perks for clients is that Knight does all of the associated food shopping herself, always checking in to see if clients have certain items on hand to avoid unnecessary purchases. She arrives at a set time each week and sets up and cleans up so well that if you didn’t know better (and if not for a fridge stocked with her meals), you might wonder if she was ever there at all.
For more information, visit jennmakesmeals.com.