For many Cincinnatians, creating a weekly menu, a grocery list, going to the grocery to buy said list, then finding the time to prepare, eat and store those menu items seem like impossible tasks. Almost as if it would be easier to scale Everest. You know who you are, you kitchen-shy bachelors with nothing but eggs and beer in the fridge. Cooking is a pain, but eating out every night is both unhealthy and expensive. What to do?
Enter Nikki Galea Franz, owner and operator of Crock of Love, a small private chef’s business – “homemade all day while you’re away!” For the same price as a week’s worth of groceries, she will set up either 2 or 4 nights of meals for you from start to finish. Franz is a personal chef with a twist. Her unique meals cook in a crock pot, timed exactly so that dinner is ready whenever you walk in the door.
Franz started her labor of love this past fall. She originally started her career in real estate, but grew unsatisfied with the business. She has always loved cooking for friends and family, and they encouraged her to turn her passion for “feeding the soul” into an actual business. After 4 months in business, she has found a small but extremely satisfied set of clientele.
“People who want a home cooked meal, but simply don’t have the time are perfect for my service,” said Franz whose customers range from obscenely busy bachelor lawyer types to families who are busy with schedules or a new baby.
Here’s how it works: You sign up for a month’s worth of meals, either 2 or 4 days a week. Nikki will meet with you to fill out a survey to find out your dietary needs and preferences. Her menu is easily adaptable to fit a wide range of special diets from gluten free to vegan and back again. You then indicate what time you would like to eat dinner each night and Nikki will arrive at your place at the corresponding time to set up her crock pot right in your kitchen. When you come home, your main dish will be ready to eat, and any corresponding sides will be waiting in your refrigerator.
If you think of overcooked, chewy stews and bland veggies as the only things that can be made in crockpots, think again! After 4 months in business, she has created four meals a week with no repeats thus far. Past Crock of Love dinners include such delicacies as Portabello Mushroom Ravioli with Demi Glace and Cesar Salad, to BBQ Chicken Lasagna with salad and holiday cookies (baked by Franz’s 77 year old Aunt Ruth, who is a part of the business and supplies Nikki with home made baked goods and desserts). Another unusual dish (for a crock pot) is Garlic and Herb Shrimp Stuffed Tilapia with Zucchini and Yellow Squash.
The art of crock pot cooking has been around for years, but it takes a practiced hand to really understand how to make the food turn out just right. Franz sources her recipes from all over, and will often adapt recipes cooked traditionally for the crock pot. She takes extra effort to source her ingredients locally when possible, especially when trying to cultivate an authentic flavor. All of her sauces are from scratch and she also cooks healthy, using low-sodium or low-fat ingredients, as long as it doesn’t affect the taste.
“I’ve gotta use butter, it’s delish!” Franz exclaimed while feeding me a sample of her incredibly tender brisket and a small bowl of fragrant, flavorful bean soup. This bubbly blonde may be all business when it comes down to the crock pot, but she says that the time and love she gets to put into her customers makes it all worth it in the end.
“I know it’s cheesy, but feeding people really does feed my soul. I can’t believe I get to do this. When my work day is finished and my customers get home, I’ll get text messages telling me how yummy the food is, and it’s so encouraging,” Franz explained.
You may not be a busy bachelor, but if you need a break from the kitchen and don’t want to blow up your pocketbook (or your waistline!), consider Crock of Love for your meal needs. It’s a unique local business right in the heart of Cincinnati. Crock of Love will deliver anywhere inside the 275 loop, and you’ll get a discount if you live Downtown or in Over-the-Rhine, or if you refer someone in your neighborhood! Check out the Facebook page, email Nikki at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (513) 404-7276 for more information.