Business

Follow-Up File: Custom Cuisine downsizes

Name: Michele Knecht

Job: Owner

Business: Seasonal Custom Cuisine Delivered

What she said then:

In March 2009, The Tribune checked in on personal chef Michele Knecht.

Her business, Seasonal Custom Cuisine, moved in late 2007 to a commercial kitchen she bought in Atascadero. Before that, she was cooking in clients’ homes.

She added delivery services, along with the word “Delivered” to the name, posting an online menu for preorders. After breaking even the first year, it was running in the red by 2009.

Knecht also had counted on being able to rent out the kitchen in off-hours to folks running side businesses that required a commercial kitchen.

What she says now:

Seasonal Custom Cuisine sold the kitchen in late 2009 to Charles Paladin Wayne, who runs Catering by Chef Charlie.

“I acquired too much overhead,” Knecht said. “I just went for it.”

She declined to comment on the company’s financials.

Moving two doors down to a smaller rented space, Seasonal Custom Cuisine has returned to a more traditional personal chef model, where each client has a custom menu.

“The demographic of my clients has changed from busy couples, many whom were business owners,” Knecht said, “to all single folk at the moment.”

Many of her clients have medical conditions that demand dietary restrictions. Others have illnesses that limit their ability to cook for themselves.

She also still offers a preorder organic menu through The Wellness Kitchen. The Templeton business is owned by Nancy Walker, a therapeutic chef.

Walker seeks to create a “peaceful place for education, health and recovery,” according to The Wellness Kitchen’s website. It offers a variety of services — ranging from cooking classes and nutrition education to a bed-and-breakfast.

The meals are geared toward patients undergoing cancer treatment, Knecht said, though anyone can order. Menus include broths rich in minerals.

“If someone’s doing chemo and they can’t eat,” she added, “they can live on that.”

Knecht used to share her present Atascadero location with Mellenbacher’s Taffy, whom she rented from, but it has moved.

The back of the shop now is being renovated into a milling area, where John De Rosier of With the Grain will process heirloom grains to make products such as flour, pasta and granola.

Meanwhile, a handful of others continue to rent space to make food to sell at farmers markets and elsewhere.

“It’s a ‘let’s make sure we can all survive’ attitude,” Knecht said. “We refer to each other too, so it’s worked out really well.”

— Raven J. Railey

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