Personal chef and founder of Cherished Meals
After working as a pastry chef and production manager for a French bakery in Portland, Oregon, 2014 baking and pastry arts graduate Amy (Lynn) Koral turned a side gig into a full-time career.
As a personal chef and founder of Cherished Meals, she loves filling her clients’ refrigerators with healthy, homemade meals, giving busy clients the gift of time and making food fun again for those with dietary challenges.
Amy recently answered our questions about her work, her inspiration, and her advice for future chefs:
What does Cherished Meals do?
Cherished Meals is a weekly, in-home meal prep service specializing in plant-based and vegetarian food. Using high quality and organic ingredients, I personalize the meals based on my clients’ dietary needs/restrictions, taste buds and allergies/intolerances. I focus on healthy, well-balanced and seasonal meals, mostly lunches and dinners, with breakfast, snack and dessert options available, too!
What is a typical gig like for you?
I cook for each of my clients once a week, preparing their meals for the week ahead. At least a day before my scheduled cook day, I start planning their menu. Sometimes, my clients will request meals that I’ve made for them before, message me a meal they’re craving this week, or ask me to recreate one of their favorite foods that they can no longer eat due to a dietary restriction. I always ask for my clients’ input before creating a menu, because I want them to be excited about their menu and look forward to eating the meals all week long.
The day of, I go grocery shopping then head over to their home to start cooking. I like to shop for the ingredients on the day of to get the freshest produce possible. Along with the groceries I buy at the store, I use up what my clients have on hand in their pantries and refrigerators. Maybe they picked up a few veggies at a farm stand over the week or have an abundance of grains; I’ll use ’em! This of course helps with food waste and the cost of groceries each week. I cook for a few hours, do the dishes, clean up the kitchen and label each meal. I typically cook for no more than two clients each day.
What prompted you to start Cherished Meals?
While working as a pastry chef and production manager in a French bakery in Portland, Oregon in 2016, I began weekly personal cooking on the side for one client with a handful of serious allergies and dietary restrictions. I originally found an ad she posted on Craigslist looking for help with meals each week, and I was immediately interested. I was up for the challenge of navigating what to make each week with so many restrictions, getting creative developing flavors in new ways (alliums were one of her allergies) and wanted to help make the challenge in her life surrounding food into something exciting and joyful again.
About a year into my side-gig, word started spreading, and I was getting more interest from people who were looking for healthy meals. My full-time job at the bakery was demanding, but I was able to pick up one more client on my weekend. As time went on, my passion grew for this new journey I was on, and I wanted to pursue it as my new career. I gave a month’s notice at the bakery and grew my clientele one by one, mostly by word of mouth. It happened very organically, and I’m so happy to be cooking healthy meals for people each week. I love making people’s lives easier and filling their refrigerators with homemade, nourishing meals.
Have you had any particularly rewarding experiences at work?
I’ve had so many rewarding experiences cooking for people in the last few years. Because of the nature of the food I’m making, very healthy and mostly plant-based, my clients notice a big change in how they feel in their bodies eating my meals each week. By having a personal cook, it allows people to have more time with their families, more time to exercise, or time for their hobbies. It’s so hard to do it all – work full time, get some movement in every day, cook dinner every night, spend quality time with loved ones, pack lunches, etc. – so by offering my service, I am able to give people back that time, which is extremely rewarding. I’m a big believer that time is more valuable than anything else.
Any advice for baking and pastry arts students?
Soak it all up! The time at school goes by so fast, so just enjoy it, and don’t rush the process. Ask your professors/chefs tons of questions, take as many classes as you can, and document your work.
What traits do students need to be successful as entrepreneurs and/or personal chefs?
The biggest trait I believe you need to be successful in this career is to be organized. It’s important to have a good plan and to have everything in place before you start cooking. Mise en place goes a long way. The first thing I do when I get to my clients’ homes is start preheating the oven, maybe I’ll start boiling some water on the stove for short-grain brown rice, and get all my veggies washed at the start. I think about what sauté pan or pot I can use twice to save on dishes. It all starts with being organized. As far as a successful entrepreneur: Believe in yourself first, but also have a good support system. Everyone in my life was supportive of me quitting my job and believed that I could start a business on my own. That was extremely helpful and encouraging.
What do you love about your work?
I love creating the menu each week – coming up with new ideas and challenging myself to try new recipes or cooking methods. And I just love cooking! I normally listen to a podcast while I’m preparing the meals, which is a total bonus of the job. My favorite right now is “Home Cooking” hosted by Samin Nosrat. I highly recommend it to all food lovers! It’s also super fun to cook in different kitchens all week long. It can be a challenge for sure – each oven or stove top acts differently; each person has different pots and pans; and so on – but I’ve found some of my favorite kitchen tools and equipment to work with from my clients’ kitchens.
How did Penn College help prepare you to excel in your work?
I was a very active and involved student at Penn College. I was an RA, a student ambassador, and was involved in different clubs and organizations through the hospitality program and baking and pastry major. I think being so involved and juggling so many different roles in college helped me become more organized and maintain a strong work ethic. I had some tough-love professors and chefs who helped me grow to become a better student and person. Chef Charles (Niedermyer, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts) used to tell me I need to learn how to listen better, and that’s always stuck with me, and I remind myself of that from time to time. He knew my strengths and weaknesses and pushed me to work on myself. College for me was more than just the skills I was learning in the lab or the classroom education; it was a full experience of learning more about myself.